Financing the 2004 Election
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Citing Literature. The size and focus of Mr. View all New York Times newsletters. Among the 18 states where his advertisements will begin running on Friday are Alaska, Georgia and Montana — states so reliably Republican that neither party has seen fit to advertise in them in any big way during the past few presidential contests. On paper, Mr. Obama is playing catch-up to Mr. McCain, who began his advertising campaign two weeks ago. But Mr. Obama, who has sharply criticized the influence of money in politics and has barred contributions from federal lobbyists and political action committees to his campaign and the party, announced his decision Thursday in a videotaped message to supporters.
Indeed, Mr. Obama stands to receive a significant boost from fund-raisers who formerly supported Mrs. Clinton, of New York.
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Michael Coles, a former Clinton fund-raiser from Atlanta, said in an interview that he was one of 20 to 30 Clinton supporters who joined Mr. People from both camps said they expected most of Mrs. Obama, however, cast his decision on Thursday as a necessary counter to unscrupulous supporters of Mr. Obama said.
Nevertheless, Republican strategists said many affluent donors who might be in a position to finance groups were wary this time because of the legal headaches that bedeviled many of these groups after the election, as well as the possibility they might incur the wrath of Mr. The Obama campaign has urged its major fund-raisers not to give to outside groups and cited the decision recently by the leaders of Progressive Media USA, which had been expected to be the major Democratic independent television advertising effort, to shut down, as proof that Mr.
Activists on the left, however, said they sensed the campaign was mainly concerned about advertising by independent groups, wanting to be able to control Mr. Tell us what you think. Please upgrade your browser. Unlike Mr. The final table provides some additional insight on the activities of super PACs and their potential impact.
Whereas the super PACs of President Obama and Mitt Romney dedicated almost all of their expenditures to negative advertising, the other super PACs dedicated almost all of their expenditures to promoting their own candidates. Super PACs now are a significant feature of the current electoral landscape.
What is not yet clear is what impact all this money flowing from wealthy individuals, labor unions, and corporations to fund mostly attack ads is having on election outcomes and what it will mean for our democratic society. In the short-run, Republicans have been quick to capitalize on this new financing mechanism and seem to be the primary beneficiaries. Research is needed to show precisely what contribution money had on the outcomes of individual races when controlling for other variables.
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Research also is needed to assess the impact of expenditures by super PACs on the contest for the Republican nomination. Romney began the race as the front-runner. He campaigned for the nomination in and won eleven primaries and caucuses.
Romney had been organizing in key states and raising money longer than most of his rivals. Yet, money surely was a contributing factor. Money spent on television advertising allowed Romney to define himself and to convey his message to Republican voters who still did not have a clear picture of who he is and were not firmly committed to any candidate. Gingrich, Mr. Santorum, and the other candidates in a negative light. At the same time, it was money spent by super PACs that allowed the race to go on as long as it did. A similar phenomenon is being observed in the congressional races, where super PACs have financed millions in ads for credible yet underfunded challengers in their races to unseat senior members of Congress or to compete for open seats against anointed front-runners.
The Campaign for Primary Accountability, moreover, has targeted 15 current members of Congress of both parties who have been under ethical clouds and as a result has given voters more information with which to hold their own representatives accountable for their performance. At the moment, the evidence is mixed on the extent to which super PACs and the practice of unlimited contributions and expenditures are corrupting the democratic process. There is no evidence to suggest that large corporate firms are drawing from their treasuries to fund political candidates.
Labor unions have been active contributors to Democratic-oriented super PACs, but the size of their donations does not show an ability or at least willingness to spend much more than they have in previous elections. Moreover, the super PACs to which the unions have contributed are using some of the contributions to fund activities that register voters and get them to the polls on election day.
While homebuilder Bob Perry contributed one-third of the donations to American Crossroads in , expenditures were spread out over 40 different congressional races.
Presidential candidates such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have relied primarily on one individual to fund their super PACs, but neither of these candidates had a rationale for their candidacies that appealed to a broad segment of the Republican electorate both in terms of votes and fundraising. While still troublesome, this practice is not any worse than allowing wealthy individuals to draw as much as they want from their own personal fortune to fund their campaigns.
What minimizes the corrupting influence of super PACs is that the names of all individual and organizational donors have to be made public.
Public disclosure allows voters to decide whether they are uncomfortable or worried about the source or size of any contributions. Moreover, these extraordinary contributions garner extensive media coverage not only during the campaign, but once the candidate assumes office. It is likely that any policy decision that benefits a donor will be highly scrutinized and perceived with suspicion.
The Election of 2004
Rather than concern ourselves with novel and elaborate ways to close a loophole created in the previous round of reforms, Congress simply should require all tax-exempt, non-profit organizations that participate in elections to reveal their donors. There are too many examples of people managing a super PAC who have worked closely with the candidate or candidates their super PAC is supporting.
There still is a concern that the wealthy and highly organized will be able to dictate outcomes indirectly because their large contributions force policymakers to pay attention to their arguments, while most of the public have no real voice in the policy process. Those with a seat at the table have the opportunity to influence the content of policy and limit the alternatives under debate. For that reason, it is essential that those with expertise in the policy area in question monitor closely and offer analysis on the policy process and then press the news media to relay this information and analysis to the public.
Rather than focusing on the adoption phase of the process, it is important for the media to report on what influences policy while the policy is being formulated. Under the current rules and practices, super PACs will be highly visible throughout the campaign.