During most of US history Presidential candidates were selected during party conventions (and senators were appointed by state legislatures.) Now the US has a lengthy primary process for Presidential candidates; senators are no longer appointed, but are elected to office by state-wide voting. In both instances citizens are far more involved than in the past.
In regard to opinions that whoever has the most money wins an election, there are numerous examples which show otherwise. That WWF woman in Connecticut spent money hand over fist (is that a wrestling term?
) twice in senatorial races and lost both times. In my own state of Missouri in the recent state elections 3 wealthy candidates outspent their opponents by a great deal, and all 3 lost.
Perhaps the biggest myth in US media/politics is that TV ads persuade voters, so enormous amounts of money are spent on ads which constantly bombard folks during elections (also are the telephone calls of recorded messages urging folks to vote for whomever or whatever.) TV stations make a nice profit on such ads, so they certainly encourage the myth. But the fact is, folks quickly tire of the bombardment of ads and detest the pre-recorded phone calls.
I realize we are not to discuss post-1991 politics, but it seemed to me this was the only way to address the OP person's perceptions. In regard to lobbyists, their main
influence is not on supporting certain candidates, but when it comes time to write legislation. This is when all kinds of things are included in bills to protect or promote particular interests.
Historically, the Presidential primary process (though we often complain it is way to long) did much to take away the backroom deals of political power brokers at conventions (as a fact, I'm right now reading a book about the 1880 Republican convention which will lead to the election of Garfield and his assassination by a lone crank.) Candidates must now make their cases directly to citizens. The long process, despite its flaws, allow us time to get to know candidates.
Powerful corporations emerged in the US after the Civil War. They have been a part of US history ever since. There is a long history of the US commonweal and corporations which does involve politics but, as for candidates, it has not been corporate money by which candidates win election to office, but by their constituencies and citizen supporters. The recent US Presidential election is a huge example of this. For example, Hispanics voted overwhelmingly in favor of President Obama. That had nothing to do with corporate interests or money. Nor did other constituencies which re-elected him have much to do with corporate interests or money (in fact, quite the opposite!!!