In this article, David Primo reviews the public opinion data and shows that the public has favored campaign finance reform, but it has been inconsistent in its preferences and has assigned it a low priority. He also shows that trust in government is not linked to campaign spending. This absence of connection contradicts arguments that Americans will trust government more if the amount spent on campaigns drops following reform.
This report analyzes the effects of the Citizens Clean Elections Act after its first election cycle to determine its impact on the competitiveness of legislative races in 2000. The report also explores whether accepting public subsidies caused legislators to vote differently from legislators who continued to accept private support. Finally, this report comments on the concerns that are raised by an expansion of campaign finance regulation and subsidies like the Clean Elections Act. The author concludes that given the program’s negligible impact, its cost, and its infringement of First Amendment rights, the Clean Elections system should be repealed.
Coleman and Manna argue that campaign spending boosts the quality of democracy by increasing citizen knowledge about and affect toward candidates. If politically and socially advantaged groups disproportionately capture these knowledge benefits, however, then campaign spending merely perpetuates political inequality. Examining challenger and incumbent spending in 1996, I estimate the distribution of campaign spending benefits and find that these benefits are distributed broadly across advantaged and disadvantaged groups. In this regard, campaign spending is a democratizing force.
The American Conservative Union (ACU) commissioned this report, Who’s Buying Campaign Finance Reform? to shed light on where the anti-First Amendment, campaign ‘reform’ movement gets its money and what its leaders, followers and funders really want for America. What we present here are some facts: the campaign finance reform ‘campaign’ is controlled and financed by liberal foundations and wealthy donors to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates, with a decidedly liberal public policy agenda on substantive issues.
This chapter first appeared in Congressional Primaries and the Politics of Representation, edited by Peter F. Galderisi, Michael Lyons, and Marni Ezra (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), pp. 62-76. In this chapter, “Campaign Finance in U.S. House Primary and General Elections,” Jay Goodliffe and David B. Magleby examine how money and electoral competitiveness influence the results of U.S. House primary and general elections.
The authors question the usefulness of primaries in keeping incumbents accountable and creating competitive elections. According to the chapter, close primaries involving incumbents usually seem to result from a combination of two circumstances: “(1) the incumbent appeared to be vulnerable; and (2) a challenger was able to provide significant funding for his or her own campaign.” They note that primaries add significant costs to a campaign and “create a general disincentive for candidates to run.” If anything, primary elections where an out-party candidate challenges the incumbent result in the reduced likeliness of out-party candidates, decreasing the incentive for incumbents to remain accountable.
Nearly all research on campaign finance overlooks important intermediaries between candidate spending and electoral outcomes. We consider the effects of campaign spending on a variety of factors important to the health of any democracy and political community: trust, efficacy, involvement, attention, knowledge, and affect. Our analysis of the 1994 and 1996 U.S. House elections shows that the effects of campaign spending lie more on the side of democratic boon than democratic bane. Campaign spending increases knowledge of and affect toward the candidates, improves the public’s ability to place candidates on ideology and issue scales, and encourages certainty about those placements. Spending neither enhances nor erodes trust and efficacy in politics or attention and interest in campaigns. We conclude that campaign spending contributes to key aspects of democracy such as knowledge and affect, while not damaging public trust or involvement.
This article first appeared in the Essays in Public Policy series published by the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, in 1997. In Political Money: The New Prohibition Annelise Anderson addresses whether or not we are spending too much on political campaigns and whether either expenditure limits or contribution limits are desirable or effective in accomplishing the purposes they supposedly serve. Rather than increase limits on spending and contributions, she recommends abolishing them but strengthening campaign finance reporting requirements and the speed with which data are made available to the public.