A Review of “Campaign Finance and American Democracy” by Professors David Primo and Jeffrey Milyo
Sometimes it’s good to look at new books that could and should become more important in the future. Like a new book on the “appearance of corruption,” which is the legal construct justifying campaign finance regulation, and should not be. The idea is that campaign contributions cause a “trust deficit” undercutting faith in government; the new book says the evidence shows they don’t. My book review just went up on the Institute for Free Speech blog.
This book, by Professors David Primo and Jeffrey Milyo, isn’t available from Amazon yet, but I did buy an electronic version (pre-ordered in early July) directly from the University of Chicago Press. This paragraph pretty much sums it up:
The bottom line is this: we find that there simply is no meaningful relationship between trust in state government and state campaign finance laws during this time period. … we want to be clear that this is a major finding running counter to forty years of jurisprudence, as well as reformers’ promises and scholarly claims that reform is critical to maintaining or restoring citizens’ faith in the integrity of democracy.[Page 137 of the book]
“One possibility for these findings is that the promises associated with reforms like Clean Elections are illusory and far exceed the realities of what changes in campaign finance law can achieve. This failure to bring about meaningful change in state politics may then leave supporters (in the case of Clean Elections, Democrats) even more disillusioned with the politics in their state.”
In other words, campaign finance reform not only doesn’t “cure” the problem of confidence in government, it actually makes it worse. Campaign Finance Reform has been weaponized and is often used by opponents to harass. And that very fact seems to be why support for “reform” is increasing. Not only is the First Amendment negated by opinion polling, but people increasingly support Campaign Finance Reform precisely because it is an easy-to-wield weapon against political opponents. Scary!