On a totally different topic...
Ryan Lizza did some awesome reporting today: he happened to be sitting near a new Member of Congress who was doing fundraising calls, and Lizza live-tweeted the whole thing. John Sides has it all here.
There's nothing new here, but it's always good to get an honest look at what the current campaign finance regime does to politicians.
I have to say, however, after the last presidential election...I'm not as enthusiastic about my preferred fix as I used to be. As regular readers know, I'm for floors, not ceilings, plus disclosure -- let them raise what they want from who they want, but add some minimal level of public financing so that it's pretty easy for the parties to field active candidates even in tough districts. The research that backs this up is the idea that campaign spending yields diminishing returns (and so, for House races, the first $500K is far more important than getting from $5M to $5.5M), and therefore allowing candidates to raise money in very large chunks would not have important effects on election results. As far as influence over politicians in office, meanwhile, raising money in large chunks makes effective disclosure a lot easier because it should be pretty easy for the press and opponents to identify major donors -- and if Members want to take their money and be responsive to them, then the voters can know about it and approve or disapprove.
All that is still valid, in my view. However, another positive effect of floors, not ceilings, is that it would allow politicians to raise the same amount of money in less time, thus freeing up their time for actually doing their jobs.
But I don't really believe that any more. The incentives seem to run one way: more. And there just doesn't seem to be any kind of rational calculation about the marginal effects of another hour of fundraising. If that's true, then it doesn't really matter how easy it is to raise money; incumbents are still going to spend ridiculous amounts of time and energy on it. The only solution to that would be full public financing, and that's unrealistic both politically and (probably) Constitutionally, and in my view a bad idea anyway -- I think people should be able to participate in elections, including financially.
I don't know; I'd be interested in suggestions. Other than full public financing (again, regardless of what one wants, it's not going to happen): is there any realistic way to put Members of the House back to work and off this particular set of phones?