INSIDE CAMPAIGN FINANCE: Myths and Realities by Frank J. Sorauf


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A rigorously revisionist, if somewhat detached, view of the supporting role money has played in American political campaigns since Watergate-instigated modification of the electoral regulatory regime. Drawing on the wealth of data available from the Federal Election Commission, Sorauf (Political Science/Univ. of Minnesota) challenges a considerable body of conventional wisdom. Despite a post-1974 proliferation of PACs, for example, he notes that the amount of money available to congressional candidates peaked during the mid-1980's and has since stabilized. Nor does the author find any credible evidence that the status quo puts Democrats at a disadvantage vis-à-vis their presumptively more affluent Republican counterparts. Indeed, Sorauf concludes, the US system of campaign finance has become almost institutionalized, with fund-raisers, office-seekers, and other major players behaving in largely predictable fashion. Equally startling is his determination that incumbents from both parties had been winning reelection at rates above 90% for decades before PACs and fat-cat contributors became burning issues. The divergence between these political realities and public perceptions, Sorauf submits, is at least partially attributable to the vested interest in reform of such organizations as Common Cause and the League of Women Voters. Along similar lines, the author examines the electorate's ambivalence about using public funds to finance political campaigns, and the illogic of expecting elected lawmakers to amend a statutory order that to a great extent sustains them. While Sorauf offers no personal agenda, he observes that a system stalemated on vital policy issues may find it especially difficult to change the ways in which electoral campaigns are underwritten. An illuminating report on an aspect of US politics that seems fated to generate more heat than light. The evenhanded text includes an abundance of tabular material--not seen.

Pub Date: May 13th, 1992
ISBN: 0300059329
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press