A favorite shibboleth among leftists and Progressives is that we need to get money out of politics. The common way they propose to do this is by passing laws restricting the amount a donor can give or something along those lines. Think the McCain–Feingold Act.
These are the types that hissed at the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, who scream “corporations aren’t people!”
The problem with this thinking is that it has it completely backwards. Money doesn’t corrupt politics as much as its the oil that greases the corruption machine already there. If you bribe someone who can’t do anything for you, i.e. put oil in an engine that doesn’t work, the money doesn’t make them suddenly capable of it. You bribe one who already has the power to give you what you want. The power has to come first.
As RJ Ewing from the TV show Dallas once remarked, “If a cop can’t break the law, what the hell good is he?”
Compare the amount of money spent in a U.S. senate race or gubernatorial election. Then compare it to how much money is spent electing a small-town city councilmember. The difference is worth noting for all but the most severely possessed by cognitive dissonance. The money spent is proportional to the power the position offers. Try giving your local dogcatcher ten million dollars to offer you a no-bid contract with the federal government for some “make-work project” and see how well it works out.
It doesn’t seem to dawn on some that when you’re offering a seat for the most powerful positions in the world people are willing to pay a pretty price to get their person elected. It’s not even necessarily out of nefarious motives. The more a politician has power over you, the more you’re willing to pay to ensure they don’t wield it against you. If you have a system where someone is going to get stepped on, it’s only natural people pay to protect themselves.
We see this same nonsense with the relationship between corporations and governments. The Left tends to see corporations as the true enemy that need to be reined in by the state, seemingly unable to grasp the simple observation that corporations only get away with what they do because the state gives them privileges (like the ability to exist as a corporation) that do not apply to either rival companies or private citizens. This is why it is corporations that have paid lobbyists sitting outside of senators offices in D.C. seeking favors, and not the other way around. Lobbyists, and their money, go where the power is.
If people want to get money out politics then they need to get the power out of it. This leftists won’t do, however, because that isn’t the point. They want the power, but they don’t like it when the other side, the competition, is able to use money to compete effectively for the same positions of power.
Don’t think for a second that restricting the amount of money candidates can get in donations has anything to do with limiting influence or power of the state. It’s about making sure those candidates are controlled and influenced by the “right” people.
Such thinking also naively (or not, depending on the person) pretends that these “reform” laws won’t make the corruption even worse. If politicians don’t obey the law now, why would they with so-called “campaign-finance reform laws”? It makes no sense to try to curb the amount of money spent on political elections while refusing to reduce the power those positions offer, thinking that the people who take office will simply “obey” because they don’t have as many donors pulling their strings.
From a libertarian perspective, such laws also tell people what they can and cannot do with their own money, or who they can give it to. The common retort to this is that they don’t have the right to use money to control politicians and gain special favors through state coercion and violence, but this is an indirect outcome; it is the symptom, not the cause. The solution isn’t to control who gives money to people with power but to make sure that person doesn’t have the power others seek to harness by donating to them.
What makes the corruption possible is giving people the power to act corruptly, not the money that decides who gets to do it.
Decentralization and reduction in state power is the answer. Anyone interested in restricting campaign donations but not reducing state power is selling you a bridge in Brooklyn or real estate on a Florida beach.