Recent advocacy for campaign finance reform has been based on an ideal of the democratic process which is unrealistic and unhelpful. Scholars should instead return to its egalitarian roots. This article exam-ines how deliberative democratic theory became the main justification for campaign finance reform. It exposes the shortcomings of this “delibera-tivist detour” and instead models campaign spending as an effort to commodify issue-salience. Given this dominant function of money in politics, a more effective paradigm for reform is “equalizing influence.” Advocates of campaign regulation should return to the original principles of reformers; not an idealized vision of the democratic process, but prag-matic concerns about moneyed interests acquiring too much influence over the nation’s politics.
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