How Campaign Finance Laws Really Affect Campaign Finance


So many of the differences between us that people take as black-and-white indicators of good versus evil amount to a difference in how people look at problems.  As a general proposition, liberals/progressives see a problem and seek to put something in place to fix it, while conservatives tend to prefer changing incentives so that the system fixes the problem itself.

Campaign finance is a particularly enlightening example of this distinction.  The Left wants to create laws and reporting requirements that force politicians into the straight and narrow, while the Right wants to reduce the size of government, spread out its authority, and implement reforms that make it less valuable to bribe politicians in the first place.

A recent Washington Examiner editorial gives some explanation of the ways that the progressives’ approach can have unintended consequences.  It describes how a billionaire like Michael Bloomberg (or, say, Donald Trump) can step into a race and instantly be an intimidating contender because he or she can put as much personal wealth into the race as can be spent, while campaign finance laws push candidates who are only millionaires (or less) into the arms of lobbyists and bundlers:

Perhaps Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would propose curbing Bloomberg’s ability to spend on his own campaign, but the Supreme Court wouldn’t and shouldn’t tolerate a law restricting how much of your own money you may spend to ask people to vote for you.

Here’s a better proposal for any progressive out there who doesn’t want billionaire candidates to start with a huge advantage. Our idea could instantly abolish the position of lobbyist bundler, and it might make dark money and super PACs a thing of the past.

Here it is: Abolish the limit on individual contributions. If Bloomberg can get a million-dollar check from himself, Harris should be able to get a million-dollar check from Steyer, and Biden should be able to call up his former boss, former President Barack Obama, for a million.

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If millionaires and billionaires are all on the same side, they’ll dominate our politics anyway.  Since they are not in lockstep with each other, our system should allow other candidates to attract their donations.  It should also allow people who are able to donate just a little bit more than the current limits to do so.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I am not as receptive to the “money theory” as I once was. In the last presidential election Clinton outspent Trump by some significant multiple, still, she lost. Perhaps you cannot purchase the Internet with the same effectiveness that you could once purchase TV and newspapers.

  • BasicCaruso

    “Here it is: Abolish the limit on individual contributions.”

    Yes, create a level paying field for billionaires whether they are running or not. LOL, what could possibly go wrong with that? Of course the actual progressive position is public financing of campaigns…

    “The Only Realistic Way to Fix Campaign Finance”

    If the core problem is politicians beholden to their funders, then giving Congress the power to limit the amount spent or the amount contributed would not resolve it. Regardless of how much was spent, the private funding of public campaigns, even with limits, would inevitably reproduce the world we have now.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      the actual progressive position is public financing of campaigns…
      Oh great. Congress gets to pick the candidates (you know that is how it would work out). Why should the taxpayers fund candidates that repulse them?