Isn’t it funny listening to the people who couldn’t care less about the Constitution and are bought off by special interests lecture us about the need to “get money out of politics?”
Like every other unconstitutional federal regulation, “campaign finance reform” wound up exacerbating the very problem it purported to fix. By placing limits on the amount individual donors can contribute to candidates, it created a market distortion whereby donors funneled unlimited money to Super PACs. So instead of the funds going to the individual candidates who could be held accountable for the veracity of their message, Super PACs — which could receive unlimited funds for independent expenditures — began dominating the political scene.
The result of campaign finance restrictions has empowered special interests and have made it almost impossible to defeat an incumbent. By capping individual donations to specific candidates to just $2,700 per election, but allowing unlimited contributions to Super PACs, campaign finance, like every other government intervention, protects the big guys on the block.
To that end, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas (A, 97%) and Rep. Mark Meadows R-N.C. (A, 93%)introduced legislation to abolish the caps on individual spending. Instead of pursuing further regulation to fix the existing regulations in the perennial cycle of government failure, this bill would open up campaign donations to everyone.
“Restrictions to political contributions are always presented under the guise of preventing corruption and holding politicians accountable, when in fact they accomplish exactly the opposite: protecting incumbent politicians,” said Cruz in a statement. “This bill will put Americans on a level playing field with the media and politicians when it comes to influencing elections and exercising our First Amendment rights.”
During my work on primary challenges, I experienced this first hand. The individual caps cripple upstart candidates because they will never have an arsenal of donors who could give $2,700 at a K Street dinner like establishment incumbents can. However, there might be one or two wealthy patriotic donors who would be willing to give them several hundred thousand dollars to get their candidacy off the ground. With existing unconstitutional limits, it is almost impossible for someone to challenge an incumbent in a primary unless he is a self-funder. By lifting the caps on individual donations, not only will upstart candidates be placed on a more level playing field, but the entire rationale for Super PACs will disappear.
Given the growth of this country, the reality is that it costs a lot of money to disseminate a message and obtain name recognition even in a House primary. Money will never leave politics. It’s a question of whether we respect free speech and the open market or allow the worst of the special interests to game out the system.
Ultimately, the way to “get money out of politics” is to bring the Constitution back into politics in conjunction with enacting term limits. Individuals and trade associations have the right to ask for whatever parochial handouts, regulations, grants, price controls, or tax subsidies they desire. But if our federal government adhered to its enumerated powers, their efforts would be moot.
There is no perfect system, but only adherence to the Constitution and the free market, which eliminates the ability of the federal government to pick winners and losers in the first place, will foster the fairest and most prosperous economy and system of government. Opening up donations to individual candidates while precluding the need for Super PACs will be the only way to empower constitutional conservative candidates to win elections and make the systemic changes that will truly limit the money and influence in politics.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.