I have a fairly simple idea. I spent the entirety of one subway ride thinking about it, and so there may be a few holes. Someone may have already had this idea (I know you will tell me very soon.) But I think the basic principle is sound.
I call it the Mega PAC.
One fabulously rich person (or a gaggle of them) would put X million dollars into a trust that expires November 9th. X would have to be very large. Probably several hundred million.
The rules would be simple. You could choose a funding cap for all candidates, x, which is much, much smaller than X. Say, $100 million. Plenty of money for a modest number of attack ads, since the parties must have a little fun.
The key: If any one candidate’s super PACs raised more than x, then the trust would automatically release an equivalent amount of funds to the opponent’s super PACs. The trust would be ready to hurl all its money if it must.
Now, imagine yourself the eccentric millionaire thinking of giving $5 million to your favorite in the race. You could still buy a little price and influence, but you would pay knowing that it would simply fuel your opponent’s campaign. I’m guessing you just use the money instead for that indoor 100,000 gallon scuba diving tank you always wanted.
The game theorists could improve the mechanism, no doubt. But I think this could work.
Now, if only there had been a sudden explosion young and idealistic of multi-millionaires this week. Oh wait.