Not all candidates accept PAC funds, but enough do.
I don't know what's disheartening about it. Here in D.C., Democrats are in an ideological war with Republicans. Money is necessary to fuel the war machine: https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015.... Of course they want to get larger donors more involved.
That's all they should be allowed to spend. Then they use that money to make their case to the people on merit. No PACs, no contributions, no lobbyists, and equal access to airtime. This eliminates pay-to-play or at least criminalizes it.
Also this focus on the “merits” is misguided. The US is too big and diverse for votes to correspond very well to actual policies. By the time you get all the stakeholders on board with something the final result won’t appear anything like the original proposal. So we place a much higher emphasis on people, personality, and party than policy.
I’ll give you a concrete example of this: immigration. Canada is much less divided on immigration than the US. Here, you have one side calling immigrants criminals, and the other side calling for open accommodation of hundreds of thousands of low-skill immigrants illegally crossing the border each year. By contrast, Canada’s right is less vitriolic, but it’s left is also far less idealistic. Even Trudeau generally seems to support Canada’s point-based immigration system, which puts a heavy emphasis on English skills and education. That system would be m demonized as regressive and racist were Republicans to propose it here.
So what good does it do to vote for policy here in the US? You think anyone will hash out an immigration policy that makes both sides happy? No. So instead we raise money to go to war and try to bury the other side.
What it does is eliminate the ability of private individuals and companies to purchase time with a candidate. If you allow that, the candidate then will do what you want so they will get money for the next election cycle. It's just bribery with extra steps.
If they know they're going to get money for the next election regardless, no more or less than their opponent, they can focus on things that will improve the lives of Americans (their only donors now) and not private entities.
To your point, Canadians don't have to deal with much illegal immigration (except 18,000 [0.05% of the Canadian population] annually that cross into Canada from the US to escape the Trump administration with smugglers paid $4000USD+ to bring people up North. Many lose limbs and fingers and toes in the winter [1, 2] -- 1 in every 1000 Canadians is now an illegal immigrant who fled America). That's not really relevant to campaign finance, though, it's just horrifying.