The political world is practically giddy at the failed campaigns of Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer. The Democratic primary’s billionaire candidates rediscovered an age-old truth: money can’t buy love.
It couldn’t buy love for Hillary Clinton, who nearly doubled Donald Trump’s spending in 2016 and had three times as many positive ads. Or for Jeb Bush’s wealthy backers in the Republican primary preceding that race. Or for self-funders from years past like Meg Whitman, Linda McMahon, and Steve Forbes. Money can help a campaign’s message get heard, but it doesn’t mean that listeners will like what they hear. Yet fears of campaign spending “buying” elections continue to drive our campaign-finance laws. The result is bad law and poor policy.
Last year, the House passed H.R. 1, a sweeping rewrite of campaign-finance and election laws. The bill would have imposed a variety of new restrictions on paid political speech. Its authors asserted that current law lets wealthy individuals and special interests “dominate election spending, corrupt our politics, and degrade our democracy through tidal waves of unlimited and anonymous spending.”