The Flow of Money in Federal Elections

Anthony Corrado and
Anthony Corrado Former Brookings Expert, Professor of Government - Colby College
Thomas E. Mann

December 1, 2002

Campaign finance laws are primarily designed to regulate the flow of money in the electoral process. These statutes determine the permissible sources of funding and the amounts that may be solicited from these sources. They determine who may participate financially in elections, the methods of participation, and the types of transactions that may occur among various participants. They also set boundaries that distinguish regulated funding and unregulated funding.

This chapter describes how campaign finance regulations direct the flow of money in federal elections by discussing how funds were raised and spent in the 2000 election cycle. It provides a window on the effects of the law by detailing the basic financial patterns that characterize the current system. In doing so, it offers a context for understanding how the flow of money might be altered if the major provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) are upheld by the Supreme Court and put into effect during the 2004 election cycle. This new law will undoubtedly have a major effect on the financial practices that defined the financing of the 2000 elections.