Whenever we debate campaign finance reform in this forum, it seems we always spend most of our time debating whether it’s forbidden by the First Amendment. For purposes of this thread, let’s ignore that and focus on the more basic question of whether it’s a good idea. If it is, it might be worth amending the Constitution for. Let us also ignore the questions of what exact campaign finance measures should be used, and whether they could be made to work. This thread is for discussing whether there actually is a problem here that requires solving.
From The Next American Nation, by Michael Lind (The Free Press, 1995), pp. 256-259 (from before the McCain-Feingold Bill, but I don’t think the picture has changed all that much since it passed):
I say we need to change this system, however we do it, to make it impossible – not merely difficult but impossible – for anybody to influence the outcome of an election by spending money on it. This is a good and necessary thing because:
Under our present system of campaign financing, the rich and the corporations have disproportionate influence (“disproportionate” meaning, out of proportion with their numbers) over our election processes – over who can be taken seriously as a potential candidate to start with, and who gets nominated, and who gets elected.
The above is a Very Bad Thing, in and of itself. It’s plutocracy, not democracy. Elections are the most important – for most of us the only – way we have to make the government serve the will of the people, which is what democracy is all about. And as it stands, the rich have more influence over the rest of us in deciding who will be making important public decisions, and they will naturally favor those who can be counted on to favor the interests of the rich even when those conflict with the interests of the majority. (And yes, it is possible for the interests of the rich to conflict with the interests of the majority. If you dispute that point we’ll need to start a whole new thread just to discuss that.)
Our present system also gives the rich and corporations disproportionate influence over what officials do once they are in office – because once elected they owe their donors a favor, and because they will be needing more favors in the future. There’s always another election coming up.
The above is a Very Bad Thing, for the same reasons given in point 3, but squared and cubed.
Now, does anybody seriously dispute any of these four points? For instance, do you see some positive value in letting the rich call the shots?