Campaign Finance Limits Ineffective

Campaign finance reform is not a lofty means of ending special interest influence but instead is an unconscionable limit on free speech, ineffective against special interests and a form of protection for incumbents.

In September 1995, the Cato Institute released its Policy Analysis no. 238, "Campaign Finance Regulation: Faulty Assumptions and Undemocratic Consequences," by Capital University law professor Bradley A. Smith.

Ineffective Against Special Interests

"Special interests" (meaning everyone favoring government programs we dislike) have always found ways around campaign finance limits and always will.

The real problem is not that special interests can persuade Congress to manipulate the economy, restrict individuals' choices and get the U.S. entangled in foreign affairs. The problem is that Congress has the power to do any of those things.

As long as Congress has the ability to give benefits to some people at others' expense, people will vie to be in the "beneficiary" category rather than the "benefactor" category.

Protecting Incumbents

Money does not close the political process but instead opens it. Incumbents have name recognition and some identification with ideas; challengers need to spend money to get the same. As Smith observes:

Although reform advocates say we spend too much on political campaigns, total spending for candidates for all offices is less than $10 per eligible voter every two years.

Because money is of much greater value to challengers than to incumbents, higher spending opens up the political system to new people and ideas.

While many assume that large contributions are undemocratic, most challenges to the status quo and most working-class political movements have been financed by wealthy donors.

... Big spending does not guarantee success. Michael Huffington, Lewis Lehrman, Mark Dayton, John Connally, and Clayton Williams are just a few candidates who spent lavishly and lost.

The politicians who designed campaign finance laws rigged the system to give incumbents an advantage. Even in the 1994 elections, 91.4 percent of congressional incumbents seeking reelection won.

Restricting Free Speech

Limits on campaign contributions restrict how and to whom a person may show political support. Disclosure laws can be used to ban anonymous or pseudonymous pamphlets, one of the primary means of communication in the birth of the U.S. Public financing of campaigns forces taxpayers to subsidize speech with which they disagree.

Campaign finance limits also give certain people's political speech more weight than others. As Smith says, "campaign finance laws give media moguls more opportunity than other wealthy people to support the candidates they prefer."