Can We Do Without

Public Campaign Finance? 



No one argues in favor of gerrymandering.

But campaign finance reform is still disputed by some.


The following questions, adapted from the 1996 paper “Faulty Assumptions and Undemocratic Consequences of Campaign Finance Reform” by well-known political scientist Bradley A. Smith (see For the Press for citation) show how this amendment relates to objections.


Bear in mind that Smith wasn’t discussing sole public funding 

but systems that limit donations. 


  • Is too much money spent on campaigns? 


  • Do campaign donations affect elected officers’ voting positions? 


  • Are large donors more likely to be corrupt? Don’t large donors actually reduce corruption by monitoring elected officials? 


  • Wouldn’t people who wanted to buy access wait to see who won the election? 


  • Will the amendment fund enough debate to meet the public’s needs? 


  • Does the amendment financially disadvantage challengers and increase the advantage for wealthy candidates? Will increasing campaign regulations makes it harder for grassroots and easier for moneyed special interests because lawyers will have to figure out the regulations? 


  • Will it increase the advantage of name recognition, creating an elite of incumbents and celebrities in politics?


 



                                                                        Campaign spending has stayed within the same range as a                                                                  percentage of GDP since 1860 (see Percentage of GDP), but it’s                                                                     been at its highest in this century and is spiraling, a sign that                                                                  it may exceed that range soon. This amendment will

fix it within that range permanently and the people will have

a say regarding how much within that range will be

spent in the future.


No causal connection has been found between donations and

members’ votes, at least in tests that use tight criteria of

quid pro quo. But unless all of a candidate's chosen votes are

known in advance tests rely on self-reporting.

And a broader increase in responsiveness to

large donors over the general public is hard to test. 

Corrupt intent can of course turn up at any level but

if access is the goal, large donors do get more access

than small ones. And if donations don’t buy politicians,

what would donors be monitoring?

Ending donations completely is the only way to end

any access deals. If you think people will only try

to buy politicians who have already won, never

risking wasting their money on those who lose,

you are clearly not a gambler or investor.

Section 2’s requirements for fair contest and enforcement

of voting rights will keep the public’s information needs a state

and federal priority.


Reforms that limit donations can increase the advantage

for wealthy candidates. Ending donations completely,

coupled with a system regulating expenditures, doesn’t. 

Lawyers have to figure out the regulations we have now,

and without an amendment to set basic parameters statutes

will only grow more Byzantine. But this amendment increases

public engagement, which will increase public understanding

of regulations, and unlike other proposed solutions

this amendment focuses on the public’s information needs.

Name-recognition candidacies will remain a problem even with

this amendment, but it won’t make it worse.

Reforms that limit donations instead of ending them do make it

worse. This amendment also reduces incumbent advantage in

several ways (see Resolving the Incumbency Advantage). 
 
The view that disclosure should be enough to safeguard elections without
campaign finance reform is addressed in 
Transparency.  ​