What motivates campaign donations? Discussions of campaign finance reform are dominated by a private interest theory, that donations are in trade for favors. Here donations in support of interests besides yours are bad news; they says the candidate has implicitly promised to help those interests at your expense.
The main alternative is a public interest theory, which says we donate to signal private info about candidate quality. Under this theory people who get private info suggesting a candidate would be good at promoting the general public interest donate money to signal confidence. Here campaign donations are good news. Now consider that Big Donors Drive Obama’s Money Edge:
The record-shattering $150 million in donations that Sen. Barack Obama raised in September represents only part of [his] financial advantage. … [It] is compounded by Obama’s ability to continue to raise money through the election because he decided not to participate in the federal financing program. McCain opted in, meaning he received $84.1 million in federal funds to spend between the Republican National Convention and Nov. 4, and he must rely solely on the Republican National Committee for additional financial support. …
The Democratic Party created a separate committee to capture millions of additional dollars from individuals who had already given Obama the most the law allows and who had also anted up $28,500 to the Democratic National Committee. … The Committee … has become a vehicle for ultra-rich Democratic donors to distinguish themselves from the 3.1 million others who have put $600 million behind Obama’s presidential candidacy. … Only a quarter of [this] has come from donors who made contributions of $200 or less. … That is actually slightly less, as a percentage, than President Bush raised in small donations during his 2004 race.
Obama supporters seem to have these alternatives:
- Reject the private interest theory, and thus reject campaign finance reform, or
- Accept the private interest theory, and
- A. See Obama’s donors as an unusual aberration, or
- B. Agree this is bad news, but see enough other good news about Obama, or
- C. See this as good news as they share private interests with Obama’s rich donors.