The amount of money needed to run a competitive congressional campaign is staggering, with special interests playing a central role in raising these funds. Also of concern is the declining competitiveness of House elections. And while recognition of the need to reform campaign financing is widespread, partisan and House/Senate differences over what these changes should be have complicated legislative efforts.
Almost $450 million was spent in both the 1986 and 1988 congressional campaigns, much of it coming from wealthy contributors and political action committees (PACs). Increasing criticism of the current system will undoubtedly force Congress to keep campaign finance reform on it’s legislative agenda.
Using public opinion, election and campaign spending data, extensive interviews, and a knowledge of practical politics, Magleby and Nelson examine the central issues in the campaign financing debate: the cost of congressional campaigns, financial participation by the political parties and PACs, existing and proposed limits on contributions and expenditures, public financing, and the role of the Federal Election Commission. They propose a comprehensive package of reforms that will undoubtedly serve as a guide for future legislation.
David B. Magleby is dean of the School of Family, Home, and Social Sciences at Brigham Young University, where he is also a professor of political science. He is the editor of Financing the 2000 Election (Brookings 2002), and coauthor of Government by the People, which is now in its twenty-first edition. Candice J. Nelson is academic director of the Campaign Management Institute and associate professor of government at American University.