The open display of campaign financing to influence Congressional votes in health care and financial regulation shows, if we needed more evidence, that McCain-Feingold isn’t working. Here’s another approach.
Instead of trying to choke off political money at its source, make the donations blind. Create an intermediary, a Campaign Finance Administration, to collect the money from donors and make payments to candidates or parties, and require all donations to go through it. Donors could select any recipients they choose and earmark their contributions for them, but the agency would maintain confidentiality over how much was given and who it was directed to. On a regular basis they would deliver a check to each candidate, combining all the donations made within the latest period. The goal is to permit donors to spend their money to promote their political objectives, but to reduce their leverage over politicians between elections.
It’s like the secret ballot, which was used to combat vote-buying in the heyday of urban political machines. You can still vote for any bozo you want, but you can’t sell your vote because you can’t demonstrate that you actually did what you were paid for.
I won’t say it will solve all our problems, but it’s a fairly simple step that shouldn’t raise any constitutional hackles.