Money and Politics: An Examination of Federal Campaign Finance Reform Legislation and Continuing Reform Proposals
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Political Science & Public Administration
This study examines the development of modem campaign finance reform legislation and analyzes some of the major proposals for continued reform. Arguments both for and against various proposals for campaign finance reform have been advanced in the continuing debate. This study examines key elements of the major reform proposals which have continuously resurfaced in that debate.
Out of the campaign finance discussion certain central issues emerge, each of which is empirically examined in this study. Those issues are: (1) Whether or not to impose expenditure ceilings on all congressional campaigns, (2) Whether or not further restrictions, or an outright ban, on political action committees is warranted from a finding of "undue influence" on the electoral and legislative processes, and, (3) Whether the present system of private campaign finance ought to be replaced with a system of public financing for federal campaigns. This investigation explores the rationale behind each of these refonn proposals in order to determine whether adoption is warranted.
In the case of spending ceilings, a regression analysis of expenditure data and election results for U.S. Senate races from 1988 through 1994 reveals that such ceilings may not accomplish their stated goal of increasing electoral competition. In as much as the regression study reveals a statistically significant positive relationship between a challenger's spending total and his/her eventual share of the vote, any proposal to amend the current private finance system which would detrimentally affect what challengers could spend might well reduce competitiveness. However, this thesis ultimately argues that such a result would not necessarily occur in a system of full public financing with concurrent expenditure limits. As for proposals to further limit or ban political action committees, the rationale of PAC "undue influence" is examined with respect to both election results and legislative decisions. A correlation analysis (Pearson's R) of PAC donations and election results for 1992 and 1994 House races demonstrates a moderate linear association between PAC dollars and vote percentages yet not at a level high enough to support a charge of "undue influence." A regression analysis confirms that conclusion.
PAC donations and their effect on floor votes are analyzed with respect to two 1994 Senate votes. Crosstabs reveals no statistically significant relationship between a member's PAC donation totals and his/her floor vote on two 1994 Senate cloture motions. Other factors (i.e. party) are seen to be much more important determinants of those votes. However, many empirical studies have demonstrated a statistically significant relationship between PAC monies and votes on less visible, less controversial votes. Additionally, much empirical evidence is cited illustrative of the "unequal access" of wealthy PAC interests to the democratic electoral and policy processes.
It is argued that this inequality of access, precipitated and fostered by the current system of private campaign finance, is contrary to the constitutional and practical criteria by which any system of campaign finance ought to be judged. The current system of private campaign finance should, therefore, be replaced with a system which can be judged by those same criteria to be more desirable. Full public financing for all congressional campaigns is such a system.
Waller, George A., "Money and Politics: An Examination of Federal Campaign Finance Reform Legislation and Continuing Reform Proposals" (1995). Theses and Dissertations. 2722.