2 March, 2011
A good candidate and a good message are not enough.
Without money, the voters do not see the candidate or
hear the message.
In contemporary candidate-centered campaigns,
candidates (as opposed to the party organizations) must
assemble their own campaign teams, raise their own
money, hire consultants and technical specialists, and
design and execute their own individual campaign
Recent elections reflect the rise in cost.
The Rising Cost of Campaigns
The 2010 U.S. Congressional election
Source: Federal election commission
see also opensecrets.org
Party Spending in Western Europe
Attitudes about Campaign Finance
Should Campaign Finances be Regulated?
Should parties and candidates receive public money?
If not, should there be limits on the amount of the
If so, what implications does that have for the electoral
Should parties and candidates be required to disclose the
sources of their contributions?
Regulating Campaign Money in the United
Taxpayers partially finance presidential campaigns, but
most of the money spent on congressional elections comes
from private sources.
But money is distributed very unequally, thus its role in
electoral politics threatens democratic equality and raises
the suspicion that elected officials will serve as the agents
of their contributors rather than their constituents.
Efforts to Regulate Campaign Money
As campaigns became more candidate-centered and
broadcast campaigning became the standard, costs
increased the demand for money, but many began to fear
that winners would favor contributors over constituents.
The legal response to this situation was the Federal
Election Campaign Act of 1971.
Efforts to Regulate Campaign Money
Prior to the 1970s campaign money was effectively
Congress had passed some limits on contributions and
The Corrupt Practices Act of 1925, which placed
unrealistically low limits on spending in congressional
elections, was in force for more than four decades, but no
one was prosecuted under the act.
Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA)
Required candidates running for political office disclose an
itemized accounting of all expenditures and donations of
more than $100.
Instituted a system for public financing of presidential
Limited individuals to $1,000 and $5,000 for groups.
Created political action committees (PACs)
Spending limits were also set for congressional races
In Buckley v. Valeo (1976) the Supreme Court upheld the
reporting requirements and contribution limits, but
rejected spending limits on the grounds that they
interfered with political speech.
Also rules that individuals could spend unlimited amounts
of money on the election or defeat a candidate as long as
those expenditures were not coordinated with the
candidate or party campaigns.
Candidate self-financing-the “millionaire’s exception”.
Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission
Supreme Court ruled (5-4) that corporations have the
same speech rights enjoyed by people
The Mcain-Feingold Act banned corporations and unions
from broadcasting “electioneering communications” in the
30 days before a presidential primary and 60 days prior to
a general election
The court’s decision strikes down this law and means that
spending by corporations cannot be regulated.
A survey conducted after the decision indicated that 80
percent opposed the decision with little difference between
Republicans and Democrats
Campaign Finance in the UK
Broadcast media provide free time to parties for political
Private TV companies are forbidden to charge money for
advertising political parties and other political
Cost of campaigns, while increasing, is not as high as in
The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums
Established the Electoral Commission which overseas the use of
advertising in elections.
Act specifies that gifts to parties in excess of £5,000 nationally and
£1,000 locally are now publically declared
Anonymous donations of more than £200 are prohibited
The Act also limited campaign spending at national level in general
elections. The ceiling was set at £30,000 per constituency, so if a
party contested all 641 seats, the ceiling would be £19,230,000.
Campaign Finance in Comparative Perspective