by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It happens every presidential election. A promising candidate joins the race, makes a splash, and surges in the polls. But they can’t sustain the momentum, and their popularity dips. With diminished media exposure, fundraising stalls and the campaign shuts down. All before a single vote has been cast.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California is the latest candidate to suffer from our misguided campaign finance laws. She ended her campaign for president on Dec. 3. “Ms. Harris said she would have needed to raise $5 million in two weeks,” the New York Times reported, “a goal she described as impossible. …
… Political campaigns are famous for the large amounts of money needed to advertise to the millions who vote in presidential elections. It was impossible for Harris to raise $5 million in two weeks when she was at a political low, and no one could give more than $2,800 for the race.
In other parts of our political system, money flows freely. The First Amendment prevents the government from limiting the speech of individuals, independent organizations, and self-funding candidates. As a result, some candidates labor under tight restrictions, while others do not.
Billionaires such as Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer can put their own money behind their campaigns. People who pool their funds independently of the candidates can also raise and spend without limit to persuade your vote. But direct support for candidates is tightly restricted.