Having recognized the dangers of money power over policy, certain reforms were initiated in the recent decade. But ironically, the fact that these reforms should also pass through the corridors of the Congress has made them ineffective. For example, those reforms that were designed to close down one avenue of corruption have simply proven to shift money to other pockets in the system. For example,
“if well-financed groups and wealthy individuals could not pay petition circulators, they would seek to drum up popular support and to inspire volunteers through expensive media campaigns and mailings. Financial resources would provide greater access to mechanisms that could be used to persuade people to work for a particular ballot question. In addition, reform that reduces the overall level of speech is more problematic than reform that seeks to improve access for all interests to play a role in the policymaking process.” (Garrett, 2009)
Even fledgling attempts to reform campaign financing has proved damp squib. For example, the McCain-Feingold law of 2002 is claimed by its proponents as an effective tool to curb flow of unregulated special-interest money into the election process. But as critics point out, the law has instead turned into a government censorship tool. The law would “permit government control over the kind of core political speech the First Amendment was written to protect”. (“Lobbying versus Electioneering”, 2006) The US Supreme Court review of the law in 2003 upheld nearly all the provisions in it. But there is no consensus as to the merit and effectiveness of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
It is now well understood that those interest groups that cannot gain access to Congresspersons have other means of achieving their agenda. It comes in the form of propaganda and narrowing down political discourse. The media has proved to be a disappointment in this regard. Instead of serving as a fourth pillar of democracy and allowing a rich and varied political discourse, the nation suffers from hackneyed political debates that under-represent the views of all demographic groups. So a potent combination of money power and media collusion has undermined the key democratic process of law-making. It is a regrettable state of affairs and in urgent need of corrective course.
Garrett, Elizabeth. “Money, Agenda Setting, and Direct Democracy.” Texas Law Review 77.7 (2009): 1845+.
Haider-Markel, Donald P. “Redistributing Values in Congress: Interest Group Influence under Sub-Optimal Conditions.” Political Research Quarterly 52.1 (1999): 113+.
“Lobbying versus Electioneering ; A Key Campaign-Finance Law Is Back in the High Court Tuesday, as Interest Groups Challenge a Rule on Election-Season Ads.” The Christian Science Monitor 17 Jan. 2006.
Magleby, David B. “Commentary on Welch’s Early and Important Work Separating out the Effects of Constituency and Campaign Contributions on Congressional Roll-Call Votes.” Political Research Quarterly 61.1 (2008): 32+.
Nancy Watzman and Jason Hatch. Nancy Watzman Is Research Director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, A. National Consumer Group. Jason Hatch Worked as A. Researcher Citizen’s Congress Watch. “When Money and Leadership Don’t Mix Leadership PACs Have Let Members of Congress and Special Interest Groups Skirt Donation Limits and Campaign Finance Reform.” The Christian Science Monitor 6 May 2004.