Can big money buy the Internet? No, I don't think it can. The Internet's simply too big to buy.
Here's a brilliant idea: let's eliminate money from the political campaigning process. We could eliminate "big money" completely, and take back Capitol Hill. Can you imagine: regular people being elected, and staying regular people for their entire duration in D.C./Albany/Sacramento/Olympia? And then going back to regular lives after their one or two terms?
Joel Spolsky got me thinking along these lines this morning with this Google+ post, and call me crazy, but I think he's got some valid points there.
In fact, I'd suggest taking it even one step further than simply giving away ads on the Internet for free: let's figure out how to ban the *sale* of TV, radio and Internet advertisements for anybody who's running for an elected position. And let's say that anybody who owns an outlet that contains advertising in their stream must provide 5% of that advertising time *for free* on an equal/rotating basis to *anyone* who wants a piece of it that is running for elected office.
It would soon "not work" -- because there would be so many candidates with so many free messages that the channel would be swamped, and the channel "owners" would simply not be able to show as many ads as they were receiving, let alone rotate through them on any sort of equality basis.
But, if we did this, even though we recognize in advance that it would not work well once a certain volume of candidates is reached, the people with money would have to figure out another way to influence the vote rather than simply spending a ton of cash on ads.
Of course, the people with money would still have an advantage. They'll be able to afford to actually physically go to many locations and appear in person in front of people. But for every other medium (aside from an actual physical presence) where money can buy influence, I think we should make the sale and purchase of such influence illegal. We should hold the SuperPacs, the TV stations, anybody who's involved responsible, and be able to charge them and proseucte them for violations. Possibly even taking things so far as to invalidate election results when violations occur.
What if we lived in a world where anybody could advertise their own political campaign free of charge in online video snippets? How would that change things?
Worth some thought, worth some discussion... even worth some action.