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Public Financing in American Elections

Edited by Costas Panagopoulos

Publication Year: 2011

Reformers argue that public financing of campaigns will help rescue American democracy from the corruptive influence of money in elections. Public Financing in American Elections evaluates this claim and aims to remove much of the guesswork from the discussion about public finance.

Featuring some of the most senior scholars in political science and electoral studies, this book provides an up-to-date treatment of campaign finance research and thinking about public campaign financing reforms. Exploring proposals at the local, state, and federal levels, the contributors provide a comprehensive overview of public financing initiatives in the United States and discuss their impact. Focused analyses of several current public programs are also presented.

Published by: Temple University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

In 1992, while I was an undergraduate at Harvard College, I ran for the Massachusetts House of Representatives to represent my home district in Middlesex County. I challenged an...

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pp. 1-8

In any democratic polity, vigilance is necessary to ensure that the electoral process is unsullied and legitimate. In the United States, concern about the role and influence of money in the electoral arena has made campaign finance a focal point for assessing the vigor and vitality of the democratic process. The focus of many reforms...


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pp. 11-35

In his 1907 message to Congress, President Theodore Roosevelt proposed what he called “a very radical measure,” one that he conceded would “take some time” to consider: the public financing of federal campaigns (Roosevelt 1907, 78).1 The president argued that “the need for collecting large [private] campaign funds...

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pp. 36-61

The public funding system for presidential elections collapsed in 2008. The policy question for the future will be whether to revive it at all and, if so, how. It is clear that whatever purposes the system once served, the political context has so changed as to make the system at best insufficient. Some will seek...

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pp. 62-123

When it comes to public financing of campaigns, the states and local governmental agencies are clearly the laboratories of reform. Public financing of elections exists in one form or another in twenty-four states and sixteen local....

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pp. 124-144

Public financing for U.S. presidential elections is in crisis. Both the Republican and Democratic nominees rejected primary financing in 2004 and 2008. And Democrat Barack Obama became the first major party candidate since the system began in 1976 to spurn public financing for the general election campaign. Reform groups...


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pp. 147-175

For two decades, municipal elections in New York City have been contested on what might be termed a “level” playing field. The New York City Campaign Finance Act, which became law in 1988, provided for partial public financing of campaigns...

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pp. 176-183

Limited electoral competition is a key feature of contemporary elections in the United States for all levels of office (McDonald and Samples 2006; Panagopoulos and Green 2008b). High—and mounting— incumbent reelection rates alarm critics...

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pp. 184-204

In recent years, since the advent of full public funding of elections in Maine and Arizona in 2000, public financing of elections has received increased scholarly and media attention. Since the implementation of these new public funding systems, there has been no shortage of studies examining their effects on electoral competition...

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pp. 205-224

While money alone does not guarantee victory, its absence all but ensures defeat for federal and state candidates alike (e.g., Caldeira and Patterson 1982; Giles and Pritchard 1985; Tucker and Weber 1987; Green and Krasno 1990; Gierzynski....

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pp. 225-237

Proponents of public financing for election campaigns frequently claim that such reforms increase voter participation. This argument not only is offered as a prediction about the effects of reforms but also has been cited as a factual consequence of prior...

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pp. 238-248

The strength of democracy can often be gauged by citizens’ attitudes and relationship toward their government, elected officials, and the political process. Positive evaluations of government are generally viewed as a desirable feature of democratic governance. In the United States, however, scholars have detected sharp declines...

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pp. 249-250

The integrity of the electoral process is of paramount importance in democratic polities. In the United States, reformers remain vigilant to ensure that imperfections in the political arena are speedily rectified to avoid compromising democracy....


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pp. 251-252


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pp. 253-258

E-ISBN-13: 9781439906941
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439906934

Publication Year: 2011