The Promise and Futility of American Campaign Financing

Authored by: Anthony Gierzynski

Routledge Handbook of Political Management

Print publication date:  August  2008
Online publication date:  March  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415962254
eBook ISBN: 9780203892138
Adobe ISBN: 9781135897499


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The landscape of campaign financing in the United States is an ever-changing one. Reformers continue to devise new ways to regulate the behavior of contributors and spenders at the national, state, or local level in order to fight corruption (real or perceived) and/or to redress the inequities inherent in the private financing of campaigns. More often than not their efforts at reform are overturned by the courts in the name of freedom of speech or side-stepped by the seemingly endless ability of givers and spenders of campaign money to adapt to any new obstacle in campaign finance law. All the while political money, driven by its purpose to either attain access to the government or attempt to reshape the government, continues to flow via one path or another to where the power resides in the system, feeding the advantages of incumbency and carving out an electoral landscape that is dominated by lop-sided contests and a small number of hyper-contested races that are immersed in a sea of money. This chapter maps out this ever-changing terrain of campaign finance in the United States, first discussing the context of campaign finance—namely campaign finance law—and then focusing on the issues that arise from the American system of privately financed election campaigns.

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