On June 27, 2011 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett that the election policies of several states were unconstitutional. Specifically, the Court declared the use of “matching funds,” whereby a privately-financed candidate for political office would be forced to trigger state-granted matching funds for any publicly-funded opponent if he or she spent above a certain threshold, were an unconstitutional demand on a candidate whose speech would be chilled by the mandate.
Don’t Feed the Alligators: Government Funding of Political Speech and the Unyielding Vigilance of the First Amendment
Academic Advisor Joel M. Gora analyzes the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club Pac v. Bennett, which struck down the Arizona program for providing government “triggered” matching funds in political campaigns. Under that scheme, a publicly funded candidate, whose campaign is almost wholly funded by government already, is given additional […]
Filed Under: Jurisprudence & Litigation, Research, Tax Financed Campaigns Research, Tax Financed Campaigns State, Tax-Financing, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, Arizona
In this research brief, CCP Academic Advisor David M. Primo, an Associate Professor of Political Science and Business Administration at the University of Rochester, answers five questions related to taxpayer-funded campaigns. Proponents of taxpayer financed campaigns often argue, among other things, that these programs enable greater political speech, promote public sentiment about government, boost voter participation and electoral competitiveness, and diminish both corruption and “special interest” influence. Primo succinctly takes each one of these charges and provides an overview of existing research on the topic to assess the validity of the “reformers'” claims. Predictably, in regards to each of the five claims, the research is either inconclusive on the subject or the opposite of what tax financing proponents claim is true.
Campaign Finance Reform: Experience of Two States that Offered Full Public Financing for Political Candidates
The 2000 elections in Maine and Arizona were the first in the nation’s history where candidates seeking state legislative seats had the option to fully fund their campaigns with public monies. In 2003, GAO reviewed the public financing programs in Maine and Arizona and found the programs’ goals were to (1) increase electoral competition; (2) increase voter choice; (3) curb increases in campaign costs; (4) reduce interest group influence; and (5) increase voter participation. This report: (1) provides data on candidate participation and (2) describes changes in five goals of Maine’s and Arizona’s programs in the 2000 through 2008 elections and the extent to which changes could be attributed to the programs. To address its objectives, GAO analyzed available data about candidate participation, election outcomes, and campaign spending for the 1996 through 2008 legislative elections in both states, reviewed studies, and interviewed 22 candidates and 10 interest group officials selected to reflect a range of views. The GAO’s 2010 report concludes that the benefits supposedly derived from taxpayer financed campaigns do not occur in any way that can be shown by generally accepted techniques of analysis.
In this analysis piece, the authors examine the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA) currently meandering its way through Congress. The article begins with a comprehensive breakdown of FENA and its components, with a focus on differentiating between the Senate and House versions of the bill. After explaining the bill, the authors reveal multiple Constitutional issues with provisions of the bill as written. This analysis sheds light on a bounty of flaws with the FENA legislation.
Meet the New Legislature, Same as the Old Legislature: Early findings of an examination of legislator voting patterns in the first year of the Citizens’ Election Program
This report measures changes in the voting patterns of legislators who served in the Connecticut General Assembly during the 2007 – 08 session and accepted taxpayer dollars for their 2008 re-election campaign. By identifying significant interest groups and comparing their legislative priorities to voting patterns, any noticeable change in voting since the beginning of the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP) would potentially provide evidence that freeing legislators from private, voluntary contributions has indeed made legislators more responsive to citizens and less responsive to so-called “special interests.” Based on the study’s findings, there is no evidence to support the contention that providing taxpayer dollars to legislative candidates reduces the likelihood that a legislator will vote with an interest group.
This Article argues that the game of reform, having been the victim of two major campaign finance decisions of the Roberts Court, is over. The Supreme Court’s decision in Davis v. FEC will prove to be fatal to most, if not all, asymmetrical public financing schemes, and the Court’s treatment of expenditures for issue advocacy announced in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL II) will leave most forms of independent expenditures beyond effective limitation. The combination may render public financing systems effectively futile. But the principles underlying WRTL II and Davis have a longstanding pedigree in that jurisprudence. Ultimately, expenditures differ from contributions. It is not the role of the state to level the political playing field. Recognizing the implication of these principles may remind us that democracy may be better served by competition than by control.
Filed Under: Faulty Assumptions, Research, Tax Financed Campaigns Research, Tax-Financing, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, Expenditure, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Expenditure, Jurisprudence & Litigation, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns
This CCP study examines proposed legislation in Congress (H.R. 1826 and S. 752), the “Fair Elections Now Act,” which aims to fund congressional races with taxpayer subsidies. The analysis uses data from states with similar taxpayer financing programs and academic studies to determine whether the proposed program can meet the stated goals in the legislation. It concludes that the program will be both prohibitively expensive and unlikely to meet its stated goals.
In Better Parties, Better Government: A Realistic Program for Campaign Finance Reform (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute Press, 2009), authors Joel M. Gora and Peter J. Wallison conduct a significant survey of campaign finance regulations beginning in the early 1970’s.
The authors assert that most of the provisions enacted over the past several decades have failed to achieve their goal of limiting corruption and instead have acted to strengthen the incumbency advantage. According to Gora and Wallison, “the current campaign finance system works to assist the campaigns of those who created it.”
After their exhaustive look at the history of campaign finance reform measures, Gora and Wallison examine past and current alternatives to remedy the broken system. They conclude that most reform schemes further the incumbency advantage, with taxpayer financed campaigns and contribution limits being the biggest offenders in this regard.
To remedy this issue, the authors demonstrate that the best and most effective way to fix the current incumbent-advantaged system would be to ease the coordination restrictions on parties, allowing them to become the principle campaign financier. Ultimately, the authors argue that this single change in the current system would have substantial benefits for the American election model.
Filed Under: Coordination, Political Parties, Research, Tax Financed Campaigns Research, Tax-Financing, Taxpayer Financed Campaigns, campaign contributions, Contribution, Contribution Limits, Coordination, Political Committees & 527s, Contributions & Limits, Coordination, Political Committees & 527s, Political Parties
The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) released a study today analyzing donors to so-called "clean elections" candidates in New Jersey. The study found that donors to candidates funded by taxpayers have strong ties to interest groups, undermining promises by proponents that taxpayer-funded campaigns will eliminate the influence of such groups.
The study has wide implications for states which have already implemented such programs and provides a clear warning to states considering such schemes that the promises of proponents often fail to materialize.
"’Clean Elections’ are sold as a way to rid politics of ‘special interests’ that allegedly use contributions to gain undue influence with elected officials," said CCP President Sean Parnell. "Even based on this misguided premise, there is little reason to believe that a candidate would feel any less appreciation for an interest group whose membership provided substantial support towards their efforts to raise the required number of qualifying contributions than they would if the group simply contributed directly to their campaign."