The current Supreme Court biased majority has overturned two reasonable restrictions on campaign financing in four years using the flimsy reasoning that the First Amendment guarantee of free speech protects donations of money or in-kind assistance (such as “independent” candidate and issue ads) from any regulation of the amount of money involved.
Essentially, they have said it is legal to buy elections and buy the loyalty of the politicians who benefit (it is not even necessary to tie a specific funding action or ad to a specific vote on a bill, just knowing whose money got you elected and whose money could get someone else of their choice elected is enough to make a politician vote the way the donor wants instead of the way the voters want).
The idea that money equals speech is errant sophistry. More money allows wider distribution of a message, but no one is suggesting that “certain” individuals and corporations should not be allowed to give their opinions at all. It is only when hidden, dark money outbids all opposition for access to the media that broadcasts one’s message that a problem occurs. There are only a limited number of minutes of advertising time available in a campaign year, on a limited number of channels of mass circulation, and a limited number of pages or column inches in printed media, so by buying up most of them, a large donor can raise the price of the remaining minutes out of reach of opponents who depend on small donations from working people, retirees, etc., leaving them with only picket signs, volunteer phone calls, social networks and the like to compete with constantly repeated ads, which the news media refuse to fact check for fear of losing the advertising revenue, for those candidates and viewpoints supported by the big donors.
The First Amendment guarantees you the right to say whatever you want, but not to outshout what others want to say. We need to specify this in a constitutional amendment so that politicians will need to listen to all the people, not just a few very wealthy donors such as the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson. It should give Congress the power to enact content neutral limits on the amount and frequency of monetary donations, and their equivalent market value in goods and services, in support of political candidates and issue advocacy. Those limits should be large enough not to restrict unduly those who can afford to meet them, but small enough to give lower-budget groups and individuals a reasonable chance to compete for attention.
Ideally, as well, voters need to remember that the candidate whose ads you see the most may in fact be the worst for your and your children’s welfare and the public good, and make the effort to fact check those ads, and vote for the opponents of the most-advertised candidates if the ads are found to be untrue or biased. But as long as voters continue to vote for the candidate that “looks nicest” or doesn’t have some irrelevant symbolic “image issue” (advertised heavily with lots of money), and not vote at all if the office is less “important” than the White House, these people will be able to “buy” their votes by buying the ads.
It is not “socialism” that threatens democracy, it is the abuse of democratic procedures by a small group who would rather have government by auction, leaving the “little” people out of the decision process except as pawns, who threaten democracy.