Writing for The American Prospect, Robert Reich describes the system of campaign contributions in the United States as “the biggest corruption of our political process,” defining corruption as “actions causing the public to lose confidence that politicians make decisions in the public’s interest rather than in the special interest of those who give them financial support.” He claims that the increasing size and importance of these political donations is primarily a reflection of changing economic circumstances:
Globalization, deregulation, and technological advances — especially computers and the Internet — have been the driving forces. They have shifted almost all industries in almost all rich economies from being organized around stable oligopolies, in which competitive advantage derived mostly from economies of scale, toward far more intense competition in which competitive advantage comes from innovation — and from favorable treatment by government.
He argues that the issues that now occupy the bulk of Congressional time are those that affect competition between firms within an industry, as well as those that affect competing industries.
Climatologist James Hansen also identifies campaign finance reform as one of the most necessary steps for producing effective climate change policies in the United States, by reducing the influence of status quo entities like big coal companies.
What do readers think about the claim that political advertising ought to be a form of protected free speech? How much does it matter whether it is funded by the candidate themselves, campaign donors, or some other mechanism? Would we be better off if all candidates got a set amount of free advertising, and were barred from using other means to promote themselves in mass media? Would such a policy just drive them to use different approaches to achieve the same end, such as cooking up forms of advertising that can be reported as news? Does the current situation in Canada differ in important ways from that in the United States?