NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Campaign Spending Limits Questionable

November 18, 1998

The Supreme Court's decision this week that unlimited campaign spending is inseparable from free speech has not stopped reform advocates from planning new efforts to pass restrictions. But critics note that money is only one factor affecting elections. Among their points:

  • If money guaranteed victory, Republicans would have swept this year's elections, but they lost House seats while raising $110 million more than Democrats.
  • Wealthy candidates, such as Ross Perot, Steve Forbes and California billionaire Al Checchi couldn't buy a victory.
  • Unions registered 500,000 voters -- mostly Democrats -- and ran a get-out-the-vote drive rather than spending money on advertising.

According to one analyst, "All the money in the world didn't seem to matter this year. You have to have a threshold amount to get your message out, but then other factors are involved." And results bear that out.

  • Senate Republicans Al D'Amato (N.Y.) and Lauch Faircloth (S.C.), and House challenger Robert Dornan (Calif.) all outspent their rivals and lost.
  • On the other hand, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Illinois Republican Peter Fitzgerald, who knocked off Sen. Carole Moseley-Braun, both far outspent their opponents and won.

Source: Robert H. Gettlin, "Campaign Reform On The Ropes," Investor's Business Daily, November 18, 1998.


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