NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Clarifying Campaign Finance Reform

March 29, 2000

The debate over campaign finance reform consists of a lot of politically-correct rhetoric and muddled -- often self-serving -- thinking, says a former governor of Delaware who ran for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, Pete du Pont.

At least one participant stands out, due to the clarity of his views, says du Pont. He is Bradley Smith, a law professor at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and a nominee to the Federal Election Commission. In extensive writings, he has challenged the wisdom and workability of the Federal Election Campaign Act, which established the commission.

Here is some of his thinking on the subject:

  • In a 1996 article in the Yale Law Journal he wrote: "Reform proposals inherently favor certain political elites, support the status quo, and discourage grassroots political activity."
  • He continued: "Even if these proposals worked as intended, they would have an undemocratic effect on American elections."
  • Smith says those who have studied voting patterns on a systematic basis are almost unanimous in finding that campaign contributions affect very few votes in the legislature.
  • And studies show that while a candidate with little or no money isn't likely to win most races, higher spending does not necessarily translate into victory.

The reformers, he believes, seem to envision a world in which career officeholders, free from the corrupting influence of money, lobbyists and public opinion, would produce good, wise and fair legislation.

Another notion that sets him apart is an understanding that the Constitution's freedom of speech guarantee protects so-called negative advertising.

Nevertheless, he has pledged to enforce the law as it is, if he is confirmed to the commission.

Source: Pete du Pont (policy chairman, National Center for Policy Analysis), "Distorted Reform Vision," Washington Times, March 29, 2000.


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