Money in lesser developed demcocracies like India is used for a lot of things other than meeting voters and campaigning. It is used to bribe voters, intoxicate them with alcohol and the alike, buy guns to use violent methods to ensure that votes are not cast for the opposition.
Though I've often wondered why people fall for all this. Voters in India do not have to reveal whom they have their votes for, so they can just take all that is being offered to them and but vote only for those that deserve to win.
Money pays for advertising but it also staffs a campaign effort and provides for a candidate's exposure on a nation-wide front. Without money, a candidate would be restricted to running a national campaign from within a nearby radius of a local base since cross-nation needs much money.
Money is very important for all the reasons already mentioned. It would be very interesting to know how the costs of campaigning in the U. S. compares and contrasts with the costs of campaigning in other developed democracies. My sense is that it is much less expensive elsewhere because campaigns are shorter.
Here's a liberal perspective on campaign finance reform:
Here's a conservative perspective:
Here's a libertarian point of view:
The importance of the media in politics today cannot be underestimated. Unfortunately, it takes money to buy media time and to reach your audience. So much of how people vote is based on their image of the candidates involved, and so it becomes vital to have enough money to be able to ensure that you are projecting an image that people will vote for.
Advertising time costs money. The more money you can spend, the more time you have to argue your platform (and browbeat your opponent, but that's another discussion). Since we get the majority of our news from TV, that's where most of the money goes; stations can charge an arm and a leg for a thirty-second ad, and if you don't buy that time, well, you've lost the advantage to your opponent, who did buy it.
I didn't get a chance to see it, but a lot of reviewers -- including some who used to work on political campaigns -- have recommended the film The Ides of March as a reasonably acurate portrayal of the campaign process. It's fictionalized, but it might be worth taking a look.
One of the great problems in American politics is due to finances. The candidate with the most money has a great advantage. It almost does not matter what a candidate stands for. The question is whether he or she has enough money to advertise his or her campagin. This might be an exaggeration, but it is close to the truth. You need money to buy advertisement spots on television, radio programs, and other areas. Moreover, it seems as though candidates start earlier and earlier on getting reelected through adverstisements. Because of money, donors has a lot of pull as well as companies. All of this is distasteful.
Money has always played an important role in elections, but the obscene amount of money in recent elections is a pretty new phenomenon. In 1996, only $86 million was spent between Bob Dole and Bill Clinton. In 2008, $1.2 billion was spent between Barack Obama and John McCain. I think the political machine responsible for getting people elected believes that you need that much money, when in fact, you don't. It's like an arms race, one candidate has hundreds of millions more than you, so if you don't "catch up" you feel as though you can't compete. Even though by some point you both have enough money to win the election several times over, kind of like nuclear arms.
Money is used to buy advertising time, first and foremost. But these days, especially as election time nears, campaigns are like traveling cities, and there's a tremendous amount of infrastructure required to support them. They have tremendous staffs, most of whom are paid, buses and trucks to fuel, stages to set up at events, polling research to conduct, and advisors and strategists who make seven figures each. But by far their biggest expenditure is advertising time.
Money, to use a historically accepted quote, "makes the world go 'round." Money is important in elections because it takes money to advertise and travel the nation in order to get the candidate's name and platform out. Without money, the candidate can not "advertise" them self or travel to meet the citizens.