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A Realistic Program for Campaign Finance Reform
View related content: Campaign Finance/Reform
"Today's campaign finance system, by preventing parties from financing their candidates, unfairly protects the interests of incumbents. . . Better Parties, Better Government points to the one campaign finance reform that can actually bring reform to American politics." Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Praise for Better Parties, Better Government
“Today’s campaign finance system, by preventing parties from financing their candidates, unfairly protects the interests of incumbents. Wallison and Gora clearly showcase how the American political process can refocus on satisfying the needs of its citizens simply by returning authority to the political parties. Better Parties, Better Government points to the one campaign finance reform that can actually bring reform to American politics.”
—Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
“This book brilliantly shows how and why campaign finance laws, while claiming to eliminate corruption and enhance fair elections, instead did little more than protect incumbents against electoral challenges. Whether the authors’ creative proposals work remains to be seen. But this book changes the paradigm of thinking on this issue, and is now the ultimate source for anyone who cares about how a democracy should work.”
—Ira Glasser, former Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union
“Extremely well written, almost qualifying as a page-turner.”
–Tom Bethell, The American Spectator
Every federal campaign finance reform law enacted since 1971—ostensibly intended to keep politicians honest and limit the influence of contributors—has in reality protected incumbents by reducing the funds available to challengers. Although the courts have struck down many of the most egregious incumbent-protection measures enacted by Congress, important ones still remain—particularly restrictions on what political parties can spend in support of their candidates. These restrictions explain why reelection rates for incumbents are so high—up to 98 percent in recent years—despite record-low approval ratings for Congress.
The most effective way to change this pro-incumbent system is to lift the restrictions on political parties, allowing them to become both the principal vehicles for political fundraising and the principal sources of campaign funds for their candidates. This would improve funding resources for challengers, strengthen the parties, reduce the appearance of corruption inherent in the current candidate-centered fundraising system, and ultimately strengthen American democracy.
In Better Parties, Better Government: A Realistic Program for Campaign Finance Reform, Peter J. Wallison and Joel M. Gora guide us through the complex tangle of laws, rules, regulations, exceptions, exemptions, and safe harbors that constitute our current campaign finance regime, and explain how to reform the system with a single change: ending the restrictions on spending by political parties in support of their candidates. This single reform will make elections more competitive, improve the candidate and policy choices available to voters, and thereby transform American politics.
Peter J. Wallison is the Arthur F. Burns Fellow in Financial Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. A former general counsel of the U.S. Treasury department, he was also counsel to Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller and White House counsel to President Ronald Reagan.
Joel M. Gora is a professor at Brooklyn Law School and former legal counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union. As an ACLU lawyer, he represented the plaintiffs in the Buckley v. Valeo case, arguing that the requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act violated the rights protected by the First Amendment and heavily favored incumbents.
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