NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Myths About Campaign Finance Reform

October 13, 1999

Is campaign spending really excessive and exploding? Critics point to several statistics.

  • In 1998, winning House candidates spend an average of $675,478, 28 percent higher (inflation adjusted) than 1986, and hardly an explosion.
  • For Senate, winning candidates spent $4,660,847, only 3.9 percent higher than 1986 after adjusting for inflation.

While it's true that politicians devote enormous amount of time to fundraising, most of the money problems result from the 1974 campaign finance reform laws which hamper fundraising by imposing tight limits on contributions, analysts believe. In a federal election, an individual can give $1,000 to any candidate per election, or $20,000 to any national parties or committees per year.

The problem is that 25 years of inflation have reduced the buying power of that money by two-thirds, leading politicians to look for other ways raising it -- such as "soft money," donations of any size to a party or committee that aren't technically federal election activities.

Critics note that every "reform" inspires new evasions.

Source: Robert Samuelson (Newsweek), "Is Campaign Finance 'Reform' Needed?," Dallas Morning News, October 8, 1999.


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