Contrary to popular belief, it is not too complex to fix. In fact, it is broken precisely because it has been made far more complex than it needs to be. You have to work hard at it to make things as complicated as they have become. Remember the "K.I.S.S." (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) principle? That is all we need to fix what has become an unwieldy and unworkable system.
First of all, there should be no attempt whatever made at salvaging the process as it now stands. Simply discard the current process and start all over again.
Here's how it would work:
1) All candidates for any elected office whatsoever, from the smallest city or township to the president of the United States itself, shall be placed under oath, and that oath is sworn at the time the papers to file intention to run for office are taken out. This means that politicians must not indulge in fabrications of "what they think the public wants to hear," when those statements may well be 180 degrees from the candidate's actual intentions or opinions. Simply put, if that candidate gains office, and proceeds in an opposite direction from campaign promises, they shall be ejected from office and charged with perjury, the office then being awarded to the runner-up. Such a diversion from promised course is usually easy to spot within a matter of weeks.
2) The problem of bribery and "buying" a candidate is the easiest problem to solve. Instead of worrying about campaign contribution caps, disclosures, and trying to decide if some tangible item was a 'gift' or 'contribution,' and must or must not be disclosed, simply relocate the focus.
If you instead place a cap on campaign spending, then any attempt to raise more money than the spending cap is an obvious violation, and besides would be patently useless.
3)The spending cap will work, because in addition, it will have a concomitant regulation requiring broadcast media in the pertinent markets, or national broadcast corporations, in the case of nationally elected offices) to provide each candidate with a one-minute PSA (Public Service Announcement) free of charge during which they may state their message. This message must air 2 times in each segment of the broadcast day (i.e., early morning, drive time, daytime, prime time, etc.), not more than 3 times per week in a one month period. Hence, no need for fancy fund-raising dinners, etc. Candidates may use their campaign funds to purchase one, and one only, additional message to air a single time at their choice of time slot and timing prior to the election.
Each candidate shall likewise be provided with a 2-time opportunity to make their case in print media in the large daily-circulation newspapers for each major metropolitan area. The print message shall be printed once at the beginning of the month, and once at near the end. However, all candidates' print statements must appear in the same edition on the same day in a grouping. Each statement shall be limited to 5 column inches. Candidates may use their campaign funds to purchase one, and one only, additonal print message ad to appear in their choice of print media and at their choice of timing prior to the election.
The candidates (including campaigns for various propositions) shall also be prohibited from flooding the nation's mailboxes with political advertising. They will be limited to a single mailing each, and if a mailing was their choice, it would count as the additional 'print media' ad which they would be allowed.
4) The entire campaign advertising and electioneering period shall be limited to a period of time not to exceed three months prior to any given national election, and two months prior to any local election. Therefore, because of new regulations (3) and (4) as just outlined, each candidate will want to be certain to make their message count, and concentrate on their own platform, and not waste their resources bad-mouthing the opponents, mud-slinging, and making slanderous or libelous statements about the other candidates. (They would be wisest and best served to not even mention the other candidates at all.)
In other words, the citizens do not give a rat's patoot about a candidate's opinion of his/her opponent; they just want to know where that candidate stands. They can find out about the other candidate in the same way!
5) For presidential elections only, the national broadcast media shall be required to televise a single debate amongst the candidates. All candidates to be included, regardless of status in the polls, political party, or any other criteria currently used to decide which will be "invited" to debate. This broadcast shall be paid out of funds currently being collected through the income tax system under the "check this box to contribute to campaign finance" action.
6) The national primary elections to establish who will be the final candidates in the general election shall be held all at once on the same day, just like the general elections in November. This works in conjunction with the limits on advertising as stated above. No longer will the population become jaded, bored, irritated and ultimately apathetic from listening to endless campaign advertsing lasting 6 months or longer. No longer will candidates need to spend months on the road trying to keep up with the varied elections schedules. Under the new system, candidates must make their message concise, to the point and make it count.
Better yet...scratch that!! Instead, along with #7, below, do away with the primary election altogether! At the end of the campaign period, the election is held, and the outcome is final; (with the exception of any legal challenges which may arise). This further shortens the time the populace must put up with endless political advertising.
7) The last, but certainly not least fix: in fact, it is probably the single most important revision of all. ABOLISH, DISMANTLE, ELIMINATE and forever ban the "electoral college" system. One citizen, one vote, and that is how it is to be counted. Period!! No haggling over 'districts' and 'pledges' to vote for this or that candidate. Simple majority or 2/3 majority...but one-to-one citizen votes only. One citizen, one vote, one count. Done.