Good question from Betsy Newmark, who concludes:
When campaign finance reform was being debated, critics said that it was futile to try to keep money out of politics and that it would find a way to influence campaigns. Now, massive infusions of money are not even necessary for someone unconnected to campaigns to have an impact.
The money in politics got infinitely more massive after World War II, when it became increasingly neccessary to buy national television advertising, in quantity. In 2004, the Internet gave the Swift Vets much more reach and exposure than their relatively meager ad budget would have allowed via television alone. When they were able to extend their reach dramatically via a Web-based viral campaign, we got a clear preview of the future–and a huge warning to television networks. While those networks aren’t going away, their power to shape events from a handful of office buildings in Manhattan has weakened dramatically.
(Though far from entirely, of course.)
Update: “Nothing terrifies Democratic politicians like the prospect of democratic political campaigns“.