The latest trend in campaigns exposes exactly what a sham our electoral system has become. Candidates post B-roll video of themselves and their families to the web to enable independent expenditure campaigns to produce high quality TV and web ads. Needless to say, “independent” is now a joke. That’s like rogue states providing uranium and technology to North Korea and saying, “We didn’t tell them what to with it so we didn’t have anything to do with them making that bomb.”
We are moving into a world where candidates are little more than surrogates of interest groups. In large part, campaigns are ceding their paid communication functions to outside groups. Campaigns are less about people and more about agendas.
I don’t blame campaigns. They are just playing by the rules. I blame the Supreme Court for Citizens United and I blame state legislatures and Congress for failing to try to fix the problem.
The trend also puts candidates in competition with interest groups for resources. Big donors are giving less to individual campaigns and more to high powered SuperPACs. Those donors can give larger chunks and then let the independent expenditure groups determine how to spend it instead of having to pick and choose between candidates. In addition, top consultants are eschewing candidates for the groups. It’s a lot easier make decisions about spending money and running ads when the candidate is not accountable.
I don’t expect candidates in the midst of campaigns to universally disarm on some sort of moral grounds. But I do expect some elected officials to stand up and say enough is enough. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is a democracy issue.
We are quickly reaching the point where candidates must align with interest groups instead of interest groups persuading candidates of their value. I don’t believe we can take money out of politics. It’s never been done. But I do believe we can have a system where candidate still matter and interest groups are less powerful than the people they help elect.