Friday, February 22, 2002

More campaign finance

"An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought."

Ostensibly the motivation for campaign finance reform is the notion that politicians will be influenced by the people who spend money on them. This extra influence is seen as antidemocratic.

However, some interesting research shows that usually it is the other way around. Politicians do in fact have some convictions (the good kind), and like-minded donors support them for this.
Most political scientists who study campaign financing have a strikingly different view of how politics actually works and how a democracy should function. A Task Force of nine leading experts recently found that campaign contributions do not play as large a role in influencing legislative behavior as many believe. A legislator's principles, his or her constituency, and his or her political party, have consistently been shown to be more influential than are patterns of contributions. Accordingly, we conclude that many reformers, relying on simplistic, unidimensional analyses that fail to consider the numerous factors that influence political behavior, make too much of large contributions.

The same experts express positive sentiments about private campaign money. For them, political action committees (PACs) and other organized donor groups are helpful actors in civil society, encouraging participation, disseminating information, and increasing competition. Herbert Alexander,
the dean of campaign-finance experts and chair of the Task Force, has said, "Political campaign spending should be considered the tuition we pay for our education on the issues."

Question: has a politician who was not an incumbent ever run on a platform of campaign finance reform? Did he win? I don't know, and I haven't figured out a good way to query Google for this.

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