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Political Money: The New Prohibition

by Annelise Andersonvia Analysis
Wednesday, October 1, 1997

Our system of campaign financing fosters subterfuge and corruption, favors wealthy candidates over those not so blessed, puts candidates on a perpetual fund-raising treadmill, and is slanted in favor of incumbents over challengers.

These problems are the direct result of the 1974 Federal Election Campaign Act. Although the Supreme Court has struck down significant portions of this legislation as a violation of freedom of speech, what survives has done significant damage.

The usual prescription is to limit contributions even more than we now do and to put expenditure controls on congressional as well as presidential campaigns.

Such an approach would only make things worse. In 1996 the presidential candidates of the two major parties, both of whom accepted federal funds in return for agreeing to limit direct spending, had $62 million each to spend in the general election, or 31.5 cents per person in the 1996 voting-age population--less than the price of a first-class postage stamp.

The only spending candidates control is that of their own campaigns. When that spending is limited, the spending of other groups who communicate with voters--the media and special interest groups--becomes more important. Funds that cannot be given directly to a candidate are diverted to organizations that can accept them legally and spent indirectly on behalf of the candidate.

Campaign spending in the primaries and the general election in 1995–96 for all federal offices--435 members of the House of Representatives, 33 senators, and the presidency--was about $2 billion. That's only $10 over a two-year period for each person of voting age in the United States in 1966. At the same time, the Federal Election Commission spent less than 5 percent of its funds for public disclosure of campaign contributions.

Instead of further restricting and regulating campaign financing, we should

  • Abolish campaign spending limits, so that candidates themselves can communicate effectively with voters
  • Abolish campaign contribution limits, so that candidates can raise more money with less time and effort, give challengers the possibility of raising the money they need to compete against incumbents, and reduce the advantage of personally wealthy candidates
  • Establish real-time campaign finance reporting requirements, so that we know quickly and effectively--on the Internet in twenty-four hours--who gave what to whom

Laboratories of Democracy

by Bernadette Malonevia Policy Review
Monday, September 1, 1997

Conservative hopes for upcoming governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia

The Get Real Congress

by Tod Lindbergvia Policy Review
Monday, September 1, 1997

Conservative disappointments are more than just a failure of nerve

Campaign Finance: Roll Back the Reforms

by David Brady, Nelson W. Polsby, Peter M. Robinsonvia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, July 30, 1997

Hoover fellow David Brady and Berkeley political scientist Nelson W. Polsby believe we need fewer limits on political contributions, not more. An interview by Hoover fellow Peter Robinson.


by Adam Meyersonvia Policy Review
Tuesday, July 1, 1997

Adam Meyerson on conservatism's leadership crisis

Modern Tomes

via Policy Review
Tuesday, July 1, 1997

The best conservative writing of the last 20 years.

Pilgrims' Progress

by David Aikmanvia Policy Review
Tuesday, July 1, 1997

The real legacy of the Religious Right may have nothing to do with politics

Why House Republicans Are Right to Be Right

by John F. Cogan, David Brady, Douglas Riversvia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, April 30, 1997

The Contract with America was so far to the right that it only hurt House Republicans, right? Wrong. Hoover fellows David Brady, John F. Cogan, and Douglas Rivers join together for an analysis of the 1996 election results.

The 1996 House Elections: Reaffirming the Conservative Trend

by John F. Cogan, David Bradyvia Analysis
Saturday, March 1, 1997

Before last November's election, the conventional wisdom was that Republicans would experience large losses in Congress. The party of Newt Gingrich had supposedly put its majority at risk by pursuing an aggressive legislative agenda that was too extreme for mainstream America. Many pundits argued that the Republican majority would suffer the same as its predecessors in 1948 and 1954: two years and out.

But the electorate confounded the experts by reelecting a GOP House majority for the first time since 1930. How did conventional wisdom miss the mark so badly? This essay provides an assessment of the November House elections.

Republicans in the 104th Congress had the most conservative voting record of any Congress in the post-World War II era. Its record for conservative voting shattered the previous record set by Republicans in 1949. Voters registered their overwhelming approval of this agenda by returning 92 percent of the incumbent House Republicans to office. Our statistical analysis reveals no evidence that House Republicans who did lose were defeated because of their support for conservative votes. In fact, Republican winners had slightly more conservative voting records than losers. This holds even when the analysis is confined to Republicans in moderate-to-liberal congressional districts. Likewise, there is no evidence that voting for the Contract with America harmed reelection prospects of Republicans from moderate-to-liberal districts. Finally, there is no statistical evidence that organized labor' s $35 million campaign had any impact on election outcomes involving Republican freshmen.

Continued conservative dominance of Congress seems likely for the remainder of this century. In every off-year presidential election since the Civil War, except one, the party of the president has lost seats in the House. Republicans continue to run well in southern and border states and are in a position to continue to gain seats in these regions. Democratic members are expected to continue to retire at higher rates than Republican members.

These Are the Facts, Folks

by Michael J. Boskinvia Hoover Digest
Thursday, January 30, 1997

Wouldn't the Dole plan have been Reaganomics all over again? Voodoo Two? Hoover fellow and Stanford economics professor Michael J. Boskin points out that Reagan's tax cut wasn't voodoo in the first place-and that Dole's plan wasn't black magic either.