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EDITORIAL: Money and democracy

If money is such a threat to democracy, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid insists, how could any candidate with a big bank account and rich supporters lose an election?

This month’s voting demonstrated, if nothing else, that money guarantees nothing in elections.

The most powerful example of this was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Republican primary loss to Dave Brat. Mr. Brat raised about $200,000 for his Virginia campaign, compared with Rep. Cantor’s $5 million. Mr. Brat’s chances were so poor that national tea party groups wouldn’t provide support. But the professor won, in part, by hammering Rep. Cantor on … his prodigious fundraising for the GOP and the idea that Washington was for sale. Partisans ignored Rep. Cantor’s massive advertising buys and went with the other guy. Outside expenditures on Rep. Cantor’s behalf — the so-called “dark money” Sen. Reid refers to — didn’t work.

In Nevada’s 4th Congressional District Republican primary, Niger Innis raised almost four times as much money as his rival, Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, in the first quarter of this year, $170,000 to $46,000. But Mr. Hardy won the primary with 43 percent of the vote, Mr. Innis took second with 33 percent and, notably, handyman Mike Monroe got 22 percent without raising any money or doing much campaigning at all.

Recall that in the 2012 campaign, conservative super PAC spending in support of Republican candidates resulted in almost no victories, as the GOP failed to reclaim the presidency or the U.S. Senate.

Calls for restrictions on campaign spending and speech, recently afforded new protections by the U.S. Supreme Court, are distractions and incumbent protection schemes. Money isn’t the problem with government. Politicians are. And voters are more than capable of seeing through expensive smokescreens.

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