Money plays too large of a role in the modern political system. Legislative candidates who were able to raise more money than their opponents were successful 76 percent of the time during the 2009-2010 state primary elections. Similarly, in the 2004 general elections, 95 percent of House races, and 91 percent of Senate races were won by the candidate who raised the most money. Incumbency also plays a large role in elections, but most often the incumbents are able to raise more money than their competitors. In 35 states, 80 percent of the time the winners were also the monetary leaders. Suffice it to say that money is critically important in our current political system.
This naturally leads to the conclusion that certain individuals have an extreme comparative advantage when it comes to entering the political realm. But, this isn’t the way politics was originally intended to be. The people in office representing the citizens are supposed to be those individuals who will do the greatest good for their constituency, not necessarily those with the most money. It’s hard to imagine the amount of intellectual potential that goes untapped due to such exacting barriers to entry, but I’m sure it is quite substantial.
Now, the federal government realized that money was making elections (and subsequently politics in general) unfair. So, since 1867 there have been over 20 different attempts at reforming campaign finance. However, none of these reforms have ever been very effective, allowing those pesky politicians the ability to find all sorts of loopholes. Part of this is due to the current structure of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Right now, the FEC is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans. This often leads to partisan deadlocks on reform proposals. Understandably, if no reforms are being passed, and current reforms are not being policed then money creeps back into the picture.
I believe however, that new reforms should be passed. These reforms would make the political system a whole lot simpler, and allow all sorts of individuals an opportunity at politics. Part of this process would be removing the current FEC, and creating a new, independent FEC free from partisan issues. This way people with great ideas for the country wouldn’t be discouraged from entering the system solely on the basis of money. It might simply be that people with more money are better loved by voters, but I doubt it.