Efforts to reform the U.S. campaign finance system typically focus on the corrupting influence of large contributions. Yet, as Raymond J. La Raja and Brian F. Schaffner argue, reforms aimed at cutting the flow of money into politics have unintentionally favored candidates with extreme ideological agendas and, consequently, fostered political polarization.
Drawing on data from 50 states and the U.S. Congress over 20 years, La Raja and Schaffner reveal that current rules allow wealthy ideological groups and donors to dominate the financing of political campaigns. In order to attract funding, candidates take uncompromising positions on key issues and, if elected, take their partisan views into the legislature. As a remedy, the authors propose that additional campaign money be channeled through party organizations—rather than directly to candidates—because these organizations tend to be less ideological than the activists who now provide the lion’s share of money to political candidates. Shifting campaign finance to parties would ease polarization by reducing the influence of “purist” donors with their rigid policy stances.
La Raja and Schaffner conclude the book with policy recommendations for campaign finance in the United States. They are among the few non-libertarians who argue that less regulation, particularly for political parties, may in fact improve the democratic process.
The 2008 election was an extraordinary event that represented change at many levels. The candidates’ innovative campaigns changed how funds were raised, how voters were mobilized, and how messages were communicated through advertising and the internet. Parties and interest groups played their own important role in this historic election. In The Change Election, David Magleby assembles a team of accomplished political scientists to provide an in-depth analysis of this groundbreaking presidential election. These scholars through a set of compelling case studies examine the competition for votes in a dozen competitive House and Senate contests and for the White House in five states: Ohio, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Backed by a wealth of data, and extensive interviews, the contributors offer an up-close look at the interactions of candidates' individual skills and personalities with the larger political forces at work in the election year. The book offers insights into the rapidly evolving organizational and technical aspects of campaigning. The dramatic success Obama and other candidates had in raising money—especially from small donors—is addressed along with how money was raised and spent by the candidates, party committees, and interest groups competing for votes.
Building on a tested methodology, The Change Election explores the interplay of money and electioneering. Magleby builds on more than a decade of prior studies to show the ways participants in our electoral process have adapted to statutory and judicial decisions and how the 2008 election has the potential to transform American electoral politics.
Choices and Changes is the most comprehensive examination to date of the impact of interest groups on recent American electoral politics. Richly informed, theoretically and empirically, it is the first book to explain the emergence of aggressive interest group electioneering tactics in the mid-1990s—including “soft money” contributions, issue ads, and “527s” (IRS-classified political organizations).
Michael Franz argues that changing political and legal contexts have clearly influenced the behavior of interest groups. To support his argument, he tracks in detail the evolution of campaign finance laws since the 1970s, examines all soft money contributions—nearly $1 billion in total—to parties by interest groups from 1991-2002, and analyzes political action committee (PAC) contributions to candidates and parties from 1983-2002. He also draws on his own interviews with campaign finance leaders.
Based on this rigorous data analysis and a formidable knowledge of its subject, Choices and Changes substantially advances our understanding of the significance of interest groups in U.S. politics.
Robert C. Post Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress KF4920.P67 2014 | Dewey Decimal 342.73078
First Amendment defenders greeted the Court's Citizens United ruling with enthusiasm, while electoral reformers recoiled in disbelief. Robert Post offers a constitutional theory that seeks to reconcile these sharply divided camps, and he explains how the case might have been decided in a way that would preserve free speech and electoral integrity.
Skillfully blending historical data with microeconomic theory, Glenn Parker argues that the incentives for congressional service have declined over the years, and that with that decline has come a change in the kind of person who seeks to enter Congress. The decline in the attractiveness of Congress is a consequence of congressional careerists and of the growth in the rent-seeking society, a term which describes the efforts of special interests to obtain preferential treatment by using the machinery of government--legislation and regulations.
Parker provides a fresh and controversial perspective to the debate surrounding the relative merits of career or amateur politicians. He argues that driving career politicians from office can have pernicious effects on the political system: it places the running of Congress in the hands of amateur politicians, who stand to lose little if they are found engaging in illegal or quasi-legal practices. On the other hand, career legislators risk all they have invested in their long careers in public service if they engage in unsavory practices. As Parker develops this controversial argument, he provides a fresh perspective on the debate surrounding the value of career versus amateur politicians.
Little attention has been given to the long-term impact of a rent-seeking society on the evolution of political institutions. Parker examines empirically and finds support for hypotheses that reflect potential symptoms of adverse selection in the composition of Congress: (1) rent-seeking politicians are more inclined than others to manipulate institutional arrangements for financial gain; (2) the rent-seeking milieu of legislators are more likely to engage in rent-seeking activity than earlier generations; (3) and the growth of rent-seeking activity has hastened the departure of career legislators.
Glenn R. Parker is Distinguished Research Professor, Florida State University.
Close competition for majority party control of the U.S. House of Representatives has transformed the congressional parties from legislative coalitions into partisan fundraising machines. With the need for ever increasing sums of money to fuel the ongoing campaign for majority control, both Republicans and Democrats have made large donations to the party and its candidates mandatory for members seeking advancement within party and congressional committee hierarchies.
Eric S. Heberlig and Bruce A. Larson not only analyze this development, but also discuss its implications for American government and democracy. They address the consequences of selecting congressional leaders on the basis of their fundraising skills rather than their legislative capacity and the extent to which the battle for majority control leads Congress to prioritize short-term electoral gains over long-term governing and problem-solving.
For those who assume that increased regulation of political spending is inevitable in democratic nations, recent developments in U.S. campaign finance law appear puzzling. Is deregulation, exemplified by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, a harbinger of things to come elsewhere or further evidence that the United States remains an anomaly?
In this volume, experts on the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Sweden, France, and several other European nations explore what deregulation means in the context of political campaigns and demonstrate how such comparisons can inform the study of campaign finance in the U.S. Whereas the contributors do not settle on any single theory of change in campaign finance law or any single perspective on the relationship between changes seen in the U.S. and those in other nations over the past decade, they do concur that the U.S. is rapidly retreating from the types of regulations that defined campaign finance law in most democratic nations during the latter decades of the twentieth century. By tracing and analyzing the recent history of regulation, the contributors shed light on many pressing topics, including the relationship between public opinion and campaign finance law, the role of scandals in inspiring reform, and the changing incentives of political parties, interest groups, and the courts.
Voters simultaneously choose among candidates running for different offices, with different terms, and occupying different places in the Constitutional order. Conventional wisdom holds that these overlapping institutional differences make comparative electoral research difficult, if not impossible. Paul Gronke's path-breaking study compares electoral contexts, campaigns, and voter decision-making in House and Senate elections. Gronke's book offers new insights into how differences--and similarities--across offices structure American elections.
Congressional elections research holds that Senate races are more competitive than House contests because states are more heterogeneous, or because candidates are more prominent and raise more money, or because voters have fundamentally different expectations. Because House and Senate contests are seldom compared, we have little empirical evidence to test the various hypotheses about how voters make choices for different offices. Gronke finds that the similarities between House and Senate elections are much greater than previously thought and that voters make their decisions in both races on the same bases.
Gronke first looks at differences in congressional districts and states, showing that context does not really help us understand why Senate elections feature better candidates, higher spending, and closer outcomes. Next, he turns to campaigns. Surprisingly, over a turbulent twenty-year period, House and Senate candidacies have retained the same competitive dynamics.
Gronke also considers voting behavior in House and Senate elections. Focusing on the 1988 and 1990 elections, he argues that voters do not distinguish between institutions, applying fundamentally the same decision rule, regardless of the office being contested. Gronke closes by considering the implications of his results for the way we relate settings, electoral dynamics, and institutional arrangements.
This book will appeal to those interested in Congress, political campaigning, and voting.
Paul Gronke is Associate Professor of Political Science at Reed College.
At first glance, campaign finance reform looks like a good idea. McCain-Feingold, for instance, regulates campaigns by prohibiting national political parties from accepting soft money contributions from corporations, labor unions, and wealthy individuals. But are such measures, or any of the numerous and similarly restrictive proposals that have circulated through Washington in recent years, really good for our democracy?
John Samples says no, and here he takes a penetrating look into the premises and consequences of the long crusade against big money in politics. How many Americans, he asks, know that there is little to no evidence that campaign contributions really influence members of Congress? Or that so-called negative political advertising actually improves the democratic process by increasing voter turnout and knowledge? Or that limits on campaign contributions make it harder to run for office, thereby protecting incumbent representatives from losing their seats of power?
Posing tough questions such as these, Samples uncovers numerous fallacies beneath proposals for campaign finance reform. He argues that our most common concerns about money in politics are misplaced because the ideals implicit in our notion of corruption are incoherent or indefensible. The chance to regulate money in politics allows representatives to serve their own interests at a cost to their constituents. And, ironically, this long crusade against the corruption caused by campaign contributions allows public officials to reduce their vulnerability by suppressing electoral competition.
Defying long-held ssumptions and conventional political wisdom, The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform is a provocative and decidedly nonpartisan work that will be essential for anyone concerned about the future of American government.
"To discover who rules, follow the gold." This is the argument of Golden Rule, a provocative, pungent history of modern American politics. Although the role big money plays in defining political outcomes has long been obvious to ordinary Americans, most pundits and scholars have virtually dismissed this assumption. Even in light of skyrocketing campaign costs, the belief that major financial interests primarily determine who parties nominate and where they stand on the issues—that, in effect, Democrats and Republicans are merely the left and right wings of the "Property Party"—has been ignored by most political scientists. Offering evidence ranging from the nineteenth century to the 1994 mid-term elections, Golden Rule shows that voters are "right on the money."
Thomas Ferguson breaks completely with traditional voter centered accounts of party politics. In its place he outlines an "investment approach," in which powerful investors, not unorganized voters, dominate campaigns and elections. Because businesses "invest" in political parties and their candidates, changes in industrial structures—between large firms and sectors—can alter the agenda of party politics and the shape of public policy.
Golden Rule presents revised versions of widely read essays in which Ferguson advanced and tested his theory, including his seminal study of the role played by capital intensive multinationals and international financiers in the New Deal. The chapter "Studies in Money Driven Politics" brings this aspect of American politics into better focus, along with other studies of Federal Reserve policy making and campaign finance in the 1936 election. Ferguson analyzes how a changing world economy and other social developments broke up the New Deal system in our own time, through careful studies of the 1988 and 1992 elections. The essay on 1992 contains an extended analysis of the emergence of the Clinton coalition and Ross Perot's dramatic independent insurgency. A postscript on the 1994 elections demonstrates the controlling impact of money on several key campaigns.
This controversial work by a theorist of money and politics in the U.S. relates to issues in campaign finance reform, PACs, policymaking, public financing, and how today's elections work.
Why is there still so much dissatisfaction with the role of special interest groups in financing American election campaigns, even though no aspect of interest group politics has been so thoroughly regu-lated and constrained? This book argues that part of the answer lies in the laws themselves, which prevent many hard-to-organize citizen groups from forming effective political action committees (PACs), while actually helping business groups organize PACs.
Thomas L. Gais points out that many laws that regulate group involvement in elections ignore the real difficulties of political mobilization, and he concludes that PACs and the campaign finance laws reflect a fundamental discrepancy between grassroots ideals and the ways in which broadly based groups actually get organized.
". . . . of fundamental scholarly and practical importance. The implications for 'reform' are controversial, flatly contradicting other recent reform proposals . . . . I fully expect that Improper Influence will be one of the most significant books on campaign finance to be published in the 1990s." --Michael Munger, Public Choice
"It is rare to find a book that affords a truly fresh perspective on the role of special interest groups in the financing of U.S. elections. It is also uncommon to find a theoretically rigorous essay confronting a topic usually grounded in empirical terms. . . . Improper Influence scores high on both counts and deserves close attention from students of collective action, campaign finance law, and the U.S. political process more generally." --American Political Science Review
Thomas L. Gais is Senior Fellow, The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, State University of New York.
Campaign contributions are widely viewed as a corrupting influence but most scholarly research concludes that they have marginal impact on legislative behavior. Lynda W. Powell shows that contributions have considerable influence in some state legislatures but very little in others. Using a national survey of legislators, she develops an innovative measure of influence and delineates the factors that explain this great variation across the 99 U.S. state legislative chambers.
Powell identifies the personal, institutional, and political factors that determine how much time a legislator devotes to personal fundraising and fundraising for the caucus. She shows that the extent of donors' legislative influence varies in ways corresponding to the same variations in the factors that determine fundraising time. She also confirms a link between fundraising and lobbying with evidence supporting the theory that contributors gain access to legislators based on donations, Powell's findings have important implications for the debate over the role of money in the legislative process.
In the early 2000s, the United States and Canada implemented new campaign finance laws restricting the ability of interest groups to make political contributions and to engage in political advertising. Whereas both nations' legislative reforms sought to reduce the role of interest groups in campaigns, these laws have had opposite results in the two nations. In the United States, interest groups remained influential by developing broad coalitions aimed at mobilizing individual voters and contributors. In Canada, interest groups largely withdrew from election campaigns, and, thus, important voices in elections have gone silent. Robert G. Boatright explains such disparate results by placing campaign finance reforms in the context of ongoing political and technological changes.
Robert G. Boatright is Associate Professor of Political Science at Clark University.
Reformers argue that public financing of campaigns will help rescue American democracy from the corruptive influence of money in elections. Public Financing in American Elections evaluates this claim and aims to remove much of the guesswork from the discussion about public finance.
Featuring some of the most senior scholars in political science and electoral studies, this book provides an up-to-date treatment of campaign finance research and thinking about public campaign financing reforms. Exploring proposals at the local, state, and federal levels, the contributors provide a comprehensive overview of public financing initiatives in the United States and discuss their impact. Focused analyses of several current public programs are also presented.
Are our elections for sale? Americans have long asked this question in the face of skyrocketing campaign spending by candidates and parties. Then, in the 1990s, came a wave of wealthy individuals whose deep pockets seemed to be buying political offices across the country. Our worst suspicions were confirmed. Or were they? What effect do self-financers really have on electoral outcomes? Jennifer Steen's authoritative empirical study of self-financed candidates is a landmark in American politics. Steen thoroughly dispels the notion that self-funded candidates can buy legislative seats, proving that the vast majority of self-financers do not win their elections. Her book gives us a truer understanding of self-financers' actual influence on campaign competition and rhetoric.
Jennifer A. Steen is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston College and a former political consultant. She is one of the nation's leading authorities on self-financed candidates.
Reformers lament that, with every effort to regulate the sources of campaign funding, candidates creatively circumvent the new legislation. But in fact, political fundraisers don't need to look for loopholes because, as Raymond J. La Raja proves, legislators intentionally design regulations to gain advantage over their partisan rivals.
La Raja traces the history of the U.S. campaign finance system from the late nineteenth century through the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002. Then, using the 2004 presidential election as a case study, he compares the ways in which Democrats and Republicans adapted their national fund-raising and campaigning strategies to satisfy BCRA regulations. Drawing upon this wealth of historical and recent evidence, he concludes with recommendations for reforming campaign finance in ways that promote fair competition among candidates and guarantee their accountability to voters.
Small Change offers an engaging account of campaign finance reforms' contradictory history; it is a must-read for anyone concerned about influence of money on democratic elections.
New Jersey has long been a breeding ground for political corruption, and most of it is perfectly legal. Public officials accept favors from lobbyists, give paid positions to relatives, and rig the electoral process to favor their cronies in a system where campaign money is used to buy government results. Such unethical behavior is known as “soft corruption,” and former New Jersey legislator William E. Schluter has been fighting it for the past fifty years.
In this searing personal narrative, the former state senator recounts his fight to expose and reform these acts of government misconduct. Not afraid to cite specific cases of soft corruption in New Jersey politics, he paints a vivid portrait of public servants who care more about political power and personal gain than the public good. By recounting events that he witnessed firsthand in the Garden State, he provides dramatic illustrations of ills that afflict American politics nationwide.
As he identifies five main forms of soft corruption, Schluter diagnoses the state government’s ethical malaise, and offers concrete policy suggestions for how it might be cured. Not simply a dive through the muck of New Jersey politics, Soft Corruption is an important first step to reforming our nation’s political system, a book that will inspire readers to demand that our elected officials can and must do better.