The rhetoric around "getting money out of politics" as well as policy initiatives that ostensibly aim to reform campaign finance laws are misguided and potentially harmful to the interests of ordinary Americans, non-elite candidates for federal office, and organizations or causes that promote the social good. Campaigns for federal office should not rely on unpaid interns, non-professional volunteers, and/or underpaid staff; they should pay their employees a fair wage. Campaigning incurs costs for office space, transportation, event hosting, paid advertising, polling, and so forth. No campaign finance initiative will change the fact that campaigns cost money.

Most efforts to "get money out of politics" aim to restrict the ability of candidates to raise money for their campaigns, or the restrict independent organizations and PAC from spending their own legally qualified funds to weigh-in either for or against a candidate. In the case of the former, restrictions on fundraising hurt candidates with the greatest need to raise funds the most. Candidates with vast personal wealth can afford to skip fundraising and instead self-fund their campaigns. Celebrity candidates can rely on name recognition and media attention that would otherwise cost a fortune. Candidates who are middle- or working-class can neither self-fund nor rely on star power. Restrictions that make it more difficult to raise funds and/or raise the cost of complying with reporting requirements accentuate the disadvantages such candidates already face. These reform efforts are driven less by careful analysis of the intended and unintended consequence and more by two common misconceptions: 1) that candidates personally profit from campaign donations, and 2) that campaigns can accepted unlimited amounts of money from a single donor or PAC.

Over-zealous criticism of so-called "dark money" "super pacs" have renewed calls to ban qualified corporate entities and PACs from weighing in on federal elections. This criticism tends to conflate contributions to campaigns by PACs affiliated with particular interests - PACs that, despite their affiliation, are funded by individual contributors - and independent electioneering activity undertaken by a corporate entity. PACs are a useful tool to amplify the impact of individual small-dollar contributions; by essentially bundling multiple contributions and contributing them as one lump sum in the name of a particular cause, PACs allow ordinary voters to contribute at the same level as those give the maximum allowable amount.

Independent expenditures by corporate entities - including not-for-profit advocacy organizations on the left and right - began as a way to elevate causes (such as reproductive rights) that were ignored by the political parties, editorial boards, and mainstream reporters. Voter interest in political matters is at its height in the months before an election; this is a prime opportunity for advocacy organizations to raise awareness of particular issues. Independent expenditure campaigns can force candidates to acknowledge previous votes or statements, and can push candidates to reveal their positions on political or social issues. Such efforts provide another vehicle ordinary citizens can use to pool their resources in order to amplify their collective voice. It is a far more democratic and accessible tool than begging an editorial board or group of reporters -- who answer only to the elite owners of the media companies that employ them -- for fair coverage of a cause or to make a candidate state a position on a contention matter. 

Last, the rhetoric around "getting money out of politics" is not only unrealistic; it also goes hand in hand with statements about Congress being "owned" and the political system being "corrupt" due to wealthy interests. Such statements are tantamount to telling the electorate not to bother to vote. After all, why bother voting if the system is broken and all politicians are already in the pocket of the 1%? It is the pinnacle of either hypocrisy or thoughtlessness to tell people that their participation does not matter, and then wonder why more people don't participate.

My position on the issue of campaign finance reform puts me at odds with most Democrats, nearly all progressives, and, probably, a large number of independents and Republicans.

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