What does campaign finance do?

Here is Ed Lopez’s survey article, here is the survey from Thomas Stratmann.  Overall the academics who work on this issue tend to see the practical ramifications of campaign finance restrictions as very often constituting less than meets the eye.  It’s also well understood that most campaign finance reform benefits incumbents, who already have name recognition.

The pointer is from Ed Lopez, who notes:

Consider two ratios.

1. In 2000 the federal government spent about 1.8 trillion (~18% of
GDP), and total campaign expenditures on all federal elective offices
was about $1.85 billion (about $1b on congressional races, $0.35b on
presidential, and $0.5b in soft money). So federal public sector
advertising was 1/1000th of federal public spending. Ratio 1 = 0.001.

2. In 2000 the private sector share of GDP was about $7.5 trillion
(after federal, state and local spending net of intergovernmental
transfers), and total private sector advertising, according to
Advertising Age, was $240 billion (Statistical Abstract Table 1251). So private advertising was 3.2% of private spending. Ratio 2 = .032.

By this comparison, private sector advertising is more than thirty times greater
than the amount we spend on federal elections trying to make sure we
get the right person for the job. Given how much we expect from our
federal government, isn’t it surprising that campaign spending isn’t
twice, or even ten times, more than it is right now?

Ed thinks that campaigns need more money flowing through them, not less; I don’t have a personal view on this issue.  Reihan Salam offers interesting comment on recent controversies surrounding Barack Obama.


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