In a classic protection racket or shakedown, the mobster contacts a business and offers to sell them "protection". If the offer is declined, bad things start happening (broken windows, fires, personal injuries...) until the business starts paying for the protection.
Politicians can operate the same way. Shakedown, Kenneth R. Timmerman's new book about Jesse Jackson discusses his approach. Shakedowns can explain many donations that would make no sense from a purely ideological or economic standpoint.
Campaign finance reform legislation implies that donations to politicians corrupt the politicians. No doubt it can have influence, but the fact is that it is the politician's job to look after the interests of his constituents, not those of his family or his party - it is up to them to resist the corrupting influences. Call that naive if you want, but all the donations in the world would not make a difference if politicians were honest.
So why aren't we focusing on penalizing the politicians instead of the donors?
No, we can't do that. Politicians approve the language in the bills, and they're notorious for exempting themselves from regulation and protecting incumbents. Traditional media love campaign finance reform legislation because it increases their influence (not that it would corrupt them, of course). And supporters of big govt programs will have a harder time seducing the rest of us when it is acknowledged that govt bodies actively solicit corruption. In short, most of the supporters of the bill have huge conflicts of interest, which is corrupt in itself.
Comments are always welcome here. However, I have started a thread on this topic over on Kathy Kinsley's forum in recognition of the greater traffic and better interface. See ya there.