Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

The influence of money in American politics is a serious problem for those of us who would like to see democracy based on the one-vote-one-person rule. It is also the reason why so many Congress-critters are millionaires or billionaires and why the media can discuss (and discuss) the rich lifestyles and many mansions of presidential candidates: There's no political career without money.

Lobbyists have influence in Washington D.C. because of money. Poor people don't have that influence (though mostly they don't vote, either), and the importance of money is the main reason why the corporations hold so much sway in the actual running of this country. Someone must pay the bills and whoever holds the wallet tends to have a bigger say than democracy dictates.

Yet campaign funding reforms seldom stick. It's all enough to make a goddess want to drown herself in nectar, and a reason to pay attention to Obama's apparent ability to get funding from hordes of small donors:

One thing that is clear is that Obama's vast base of small donors – 1.7 million was the last public count — carries big clout. To date, Obama has reported raising $338 million for his campaign from individuals and 94% of his donations have come in amounts of $200 or less.

If this democratizes the influence of money, I'm happy, though I'd be even happier with properly run public finance of campaign expenses (combined with a time limit on the length of the campaign and a requirement for equal time for all candidates in various media). The bundlers (people who collect and aggregate small donations into larger bundles) could still wield disproportionate influence under the small-donors model.