I think the corruption involved in this sort of thing is considerably clearer and more objectionable than with campaign contributions. Energy policy is a subject on which people have substantial good faith disagreements, and you would expect oil companies to back the election bids of candidates who hold views that are favorable to their interests. This creates a deplorable structural imbalance in politics, but it’s not the same as bribing the politicians.A couple of caveats, however. One is that whether or not campaign contributions create a "deplorable structural imbalance" is an empirical question, and at the end of the day it's not at all clear, in my reading of the literature, that it's an "imbalance" that we need to worry about. Campaign money is only one resource that's distributed unequally, and not necessarily the most important one. It's worth studying because permanent, substantively important structural balances are possible, but that doesn't mean they exist -- and certainly not across all issue areas.
By contrast, picking up the tab for Rick Perry to throw himself a big party seems fundamentally similar to buying Rick Perry a nice car, paying for Rick Perry’s daughter’s sweet sixteen party, or passing him a garbage bag full of cash...The existence of a lavish party is fundamentally a private benefit, and having outside interests pay for it seems a lot like bribery.
Second, regardless of whether Yglesias is correct here in a theoretical way, in practical terms I doubt that it matters much. There's no conceivable world in which the interests funding inaugural events do not have good access to Rick Perry, and probably no conceivable world in which the interests funding the inaugural do not have good access to any governor. That's not just because they have money; it's because people who do this sort of thing tend to represent important interests in the state, and governors tend to be responsive to important interests in their states.
That's why when it comes to reform, I'm less interested in restricting this sort of thing, or even in mandating full and meaningful disclosure (which is nice in a way, but in practice doesn't really seem to do all that much good), than in finding ways for people without obvious resources to get a fair hearing. One way to do that is, in campaign finance, to provide floors, not ceilings: by making basic two-party competition work in more districts and more elections, it becomes more likely that parties will seek out (and therefore listen to) new voters and their interests.
Even if it were interpreted to allow far more restrictions than are available under Buckley v. Valeo, the First Amendment and practical politics will ensure that those interests with resources that happen to be especially valuable in politics will get a full hearing. The trick, in my view, isn't to shut up those interests; it's to find ways for other interests to get a full hearing, too.