Partisanship and Campaign Finance “Reform”

One of the things that we here at the Center for Competitive Politics believe is that campaign finance regulations are all too often simply tools by which political parties, candidates, and elected officials try to gain advantages for themselves while imposing burdens on their opponents. A new poll by Gallup would seem to support this quite clearly.

I don’t think I’ll be breaking new ground or unfairly labeling Republicans and Democrats if I suggest that, historically, Democrats and the left have generally supported more stringent limits on campaign finance while Republicans and the right have opposed such limits (with notable exceptions on both sides).

It’s easy to believe that this difference is the result of each side’s differing perspectives on the constitution, government, economics, and general ideological dispositions. Easy, but not entirely true, it would seem.

For a long time, the popular myth was that Republicans had better access to major donors and could typically count on outraising their Democratic opponents. As a result, Republicans often opposed limits on an area where they had a competitive advantage, while Democrats favored policies that would erase this supposed advantage such as taxpayer funding of campaigns and limits on contributions and spending.

To whatever degree this myth was true, it’s probably fair to say that it has been shattered by Barack Obama’s stunning fundraising success. And with that shattered myth has come something of a realignment of the parties’ views on campaign finance restrictions.

From the text of the report:

Partisans’ views on the desirability of campaign limits may be influenced more by the current election campaign situation than by what their respective parties’ positions on campaign finance have been historically. Democrats — whose party has generally supported spending limits — oppose them by 54% to 42% in the current poll. Republicans — whose party has generally opposed spending limits — favor them by 64% to 33%.

On the question of whether presidential candidates should be required to participate in the taxpayer financing system, 42% of Republicans say yes while only 19% of Democrats agree.

It’s long been apparent to many that where one stood on campaign finance "reform" often has little to do with fighting "corruption," and is instead based on whether you believe it helps or hurts "your side."

And for this, the Supreme Court authorized trampling on the First Amendment?