Georgetown Public Policy Review: Do Taxpayer-Funded Campaigns Increase Political Competitiveness?
By Joe Albanese
Advocates of taxpayer-funded political campaigns often claim that such systems improve the political process by exposing incumbent politicians to more competition and increasing the chance that challengers will defeat them in elections. One such advocate, the Brennan Center for Justice, has argued that tax-financed campaigns “improve competition, and help challengers.” Lower incumbent re-election rates in states that offer tax-financed campaigns would result, as competition rises.
Evidence shows no such result. The evidence available indicates that, despite claims that this policy increases electoral competition, taxpayer financing of political campaigns does not produce statistically significantly lower re-election rates for incumbent state legislators. A comparison between states with and without such laws suggests that the system of funding campaigns has no effect on re-election rates. Many factors contribute to high incumbent re-election rates across states, such as name recognition, the platform provided by elected office, and voter satisfaction with their representatives. Tax-financing of campaigns is not one of those factors.