WE SHARE widespread concern over the influence of money in politics. This is a far cry, however, from believing that the system has been permanently rigged by the “billionaire class.” Ironically, this year’s presidential campaign, fueled so powerfully by such accusations of total corruption, has done much to disprove the claim.
We understand the distortion of policymaking that the symbiotic relationship between candidates and donors engenders. Those pernicious consequences are often most pronounced not at the presidential level, but in corners of our democracy where the stakes for special interest groups are high and public scrutiny is relatively low: state and local elections, Capitol Hill conference committees, regulatory agency rulemakings. This is why we favor sensible limitations on donations, coupled with maximum disclosure of where the money comes from. That is to say, we favor more regulation than the Supreme Court permitted in its 2010 Citizens United decision. We also support reforms, such as that proposed by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), that might allow candidates to spend less time dialing for dollars and more with constituents.
But the failure of former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s campaign, and the well-oiled success of the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), suggest that tycoons cannot simply buy themselves a president.