Reformers (with some exceptions) are either rationalizing the election results or ignoring them. Two days after the election, hard-liners at freespeechforpeople.org celebrated the "important milestone" achieved on election day. What milestone? Not the failure of Rove and company's independent expenditures to buy the election, which a populist group might interpret as a victory for the people's common sense. That, it seems, was not cause for celebration (or acknowledgment.) The milestone they extolled was progress toward a constitutional amendment reversing Citizens United by denying corporations the constitutional rights of "natural persons." (freespeechforpeople.org remains undeterred by the fact that its proposed amendment would deny all small and large businesses and charities their 4th amendment rights against warrant-less raids, as well as their speech rights.)
Not all aspiring reformers are this fanatical. Some acknowledge the failures of Republican expenditures but attribute them to circumstances particular to 2012: Obama enjoyed structural advantages. Advertising rates are lower for candidates than for independent expenditure groups, which meant that the President didn't have to equal the resources arrayed against him. Republicans fielded self-defeating extremists in several Senate races. (Why don't reformers take solace from evidence that money can't elect weak candidates?) And, whether or not massive expenditures succeed in winning particular elections, reformers argue, they distort the electoral process, requiring candidates to devote themselves to fundraising -- talking and listening to small numbers of wealthy donors instead of ordinary voters, who are alienated by the fact that money talks.
The money race is distasteful, of course; the access enjoyed by rich people is worrisome, although its effect on policy is difficult to quantify. Money flows to candidates through many channels, apart from campaign contributions: Lobbyists confer on legislation; companies bring jobs to one legislator's district, or another. This isn't an argument against restricting campaign contributions; it is, however, a reason to diminish expectations about what restrictions might achieve.
Expectations are, however, practically demolished by the failed 40 year history of reform. Campaign costs steadily rose and independent groups proliferated before Citizens United, despite federal bans on independent corporate and union expenditures. Citizen advocacy groups were muzzled. Still, a strong majority of Americans oppose the Citizens United ruling and favor restrictions on campaign contributions by unions, corporations, and independent groups. Putting aside the historic failures of these restrictions shouldn't they have the right to try them out again?
"The real harm in Citizens United is its suggestion that when we spot problems in our electoral system, we are helpless to fix them," Eric Posner argues in Slate, in one of the more sophisticated, post election defenses of reform. Elections are routinely regulated, Posner points out, in ways that benefit some political interests and disadvantage others. Congressional districts are drawn, ballots are designed and voting machines chosen. True, but regulations are also routinely challenged, especially when they threaten fundamental rights and liberties, like political speech rights. Literacy tests were once part of electoral regulatory schemes too.