Over at Mischiefs of Faction, Seth Masket wades into the post-election "Potato Chip Analogy" poli-sci wars, which you can find summarized at The Monkey Cage (the question turns on the fact that Americans spend more money annually on potato chips than they did on the election campaign.)
Here's the numbers-crunching professor (and friend of The 101) asking whether six billion bucks for an election cycle is really the corrosive, anti-democratic force it seems to be:
...If campaign spending is bribery, then by God, $6 billion is too much! $100 is too much! But it's not bribery. What exactly are the people who donated over $600 million to Barack Obama this year getting in return, other than a Democratic president who continues to advance and protect a mainstream Democratic agenda? How exactly would Obama's millions of donors cash in? What influence has been purchased? And what do Romney's donors have to show for their investment today?
It escapes me why campaign spending, which is essentially a short term civics education program funded voluntarily by the nation's wealthiest people, is considered obscene.
You can read the rest of Masket's post, "When is Spending Obscene?" here. If you have the sort of family that "talks" about politics over holiday dinners, it's good to start familiarizing yourself with this sort of stuff early, a bit like gift shopping.