In the latest of many enthusiastic National Public Radio reports on Professor Lawrence Lessig and his efforts to remove money from politics, Lessig outlines big plans:
In 2016, we want to raise a substantially larger amount of money – could be 200 million, could be 800 million – so that we can win a Congress committed to fundamental reform in the way campaigns are funded.
Well, if spending $800 million in billionaires’ contributions to “win a Congress” won’t knock out big money, what will?
But even if he does raise this kind of money, Lessig might find himself disappointed. You can’t always get what you want, even if you’ve got a lot of money to throw around. From John Connally’s “$13 million delegate” in 1980 to Ross Perot’s $65 million campaign in 1992 to Meg Whitman, Linda McMahon, and Jeff Greene in 2010, the candidates with the most money sometimes fail badly. Or take the billion dollars that Republican groups planned to spend in 2012 to take back the Senate and the White House.
Given the consistently low priority Americans have placed on “campaign finance reform” for decades and up to the present – the lowest priority in this 2012 Pew poll, save for global warming – even $800 million may not be enough to sway the voters.
John Samples has raised many questions about the advisability of campaign spending restrictions in articles such as this one.
David Boaz is the executive vice president of the Cato Institute and has played a key role in the development of the Cato Institute and the libertarian movement.