Campaign Finance


Most of the laws concerning the financing of political campaigns are, frankly, not of much concern to those of us who are not candidates or campaign treasurers.

What the public does care about is how much money candidates and issue campaigns can get from individuals and organizations, and how that money affects the outcome of elections.

Many voters are concerned that candidates will favor their contributors once they become elected and that contributions may be repaid with influence, favors, contracts and other governmental actions.

Candidates and office holders will insist that campaign contributors have no influence on the way they vote. To some extent, that’s probably true. Contributors tend to give money to candidates and office holders who already agree with them – conservatives give money to conservatives, liberals to liberals.

But candidates who look as if they will be winners, and office holders who are in the majority, who hold leadership positions or committee chairmanships, or who are on committees that affect the contributor’s business, often attract major contributions regardless of ideology.

It would be naive to imagine that an office holder would not at least listen sympathetically to someone who contributed significantly to his campaign. There are so many demands on his time and attention that it is logical to assume that his major contributors will have more ready access to him than ordinary voters.

Ultimately, the concern is that office holders are more responsive to individuals and organizations with more resources than to the ordinary voters whom they are supposed to represent.