A 2004 analysis by the Center for Public Integrity found that registered lobbyists represented only about 10 percent of the Bush campaign's big bundlers. Lobbyists complain that the new law unfairly discriminates against them.
Clearly there are more loopholes to be closed. But perhaps it's time to reconsider the never-ending quest to purify politics by restricting money.
Under the Lobbying Transparency Act, a candidate can receive any amount of money from a single bundler, as long as the public knows about it. Why not apply the same standard to individual donors, lifting the restrictions imposed in 1974 while continuing to require disclosure of who gets what from whom?
Those donation limits impinge on the freedom of Americans to express their political views by putting their money where their mouths are. Worse, the effort to control contributions has led to restrictions on independent political ads that reformers consider disguised donations, another loophole to be closed.
In addition to restoring our First Amendment rights, campaign deregulation would address one of the main concerns about bundling: that it gives incumbents an unfair advantage. If challengers could collect unlimited amounts from wealthy individuals, it would be much easier for them to mount credible campaigns, and we might be spared candidates whose main qualification for office is a fat bank account.
Politicians then would have to weigh the appearance of being indebted to a few big donors against the difficulty of raising adequate funds in smaller increments. If a congressman preferred hitting up everyone in his district, that option would still be available.