Competitive Campaign Finance

There is an interesting piece in the April issue of The Atlantic (article not online, subscribe here) on how the Bush team is using social competition and peer-incentives to increase their campaign finances.

Politicians have celebrated large fundraisers for years, but discreetly. Names were not publicized, and some campaigns had difficulty calculating the precise number of dollars brought in by a given fundraiser. Bush changed that. Before the 2000 election his campaign instituted a simple system of tracking numbers: any fundraiser who wanted dollars credited to himself could ask donors to write his designated number on their checks. The system ensured exact accounting and signaled that the campaign was closely monitoring how much individual bundlers were bringing in. Meanwhile the campaign set aggressive goals for bundlers and publicly disclosed which people hit what specific goals….all this has instilled a fervent spirit of competition in Bush’s network that has led it to raise more and more money.

In addition to approbation, being a succesful fundraiser pays off in other ways:

Of the 241 individuals who raised at least $100,000 “eight seven were named to posts in the administration. Nineteen became ambassadors, two were named Cabinet officials, one became a federal judge, and at least six (including the Enron executive Ken Lay) were members of the Energy Department transition team.

The Atlantic notes that while the former techniques are new the latter are old hat. See the article for more of interest, including data and maps.


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