Campaign finance reformers are worried about the future. They contend that two Supreme Court rulings — the McCutcheon decision in March and the 2010 Citizens United decision — will magnify inequality in U.S. politics. In both cases, the court majority relaxed constraints on how money can be spent on or donated to political campaigns. By allowing more private money to flow to campaigns, the critics maintain, the court has allowed the rich an unfair advantage in shaping political outcomes and made “one dollar, one vote” (in one formulation) the measure of our corrupted democracy. This argument misses the mark for at least four reasons. First, the money spent on federal campaigns is not excessive; quite the contrary. Second, elections — and politics in general — are inherently unequal for many reasons other than money. Third, incumbency is by far the greatest source of this inequality, and the limits on contributions — and thus on most candidates’ spending — that reformers want to retain would only worsen it. Finally, the claim that generous donors and big independent spenders in effect buy federal elections and policies is contradicted by the empirical evidence.
Politics is inevitably expensive in a vast, diverse, media-centered country like ours. Town meetings, soapboxes and water-cooler conversations are cheap and important, but most campaigning is done through televised debates, advertising, direct mail and other costly media. Money is not exactly speech, but it is essential to communicating political ideas effectively, and even negative advertising conveys useful information to voters.
Indeed, we should probably spend more on elections than we do. In the 2012 election, parties, candidates and political committees not directly affiliated with them spent $7 billion. That may seem like a lot of money, but consider it in context. In 2011, Americans spent an estimated $10.4 billion — almost 50% more — on cosmetic surgery! In a 2003 study, Harvard political scientist Stephen Ansolabehere and his colleagues found that campaign spending as a share of GDP had not risen appreciably in more than a century.
Full Article: Money won’t buy you votes – latimes.com.