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The Fundamentals of Campaign Finance in the U.S.

Why We Have the System We Have

Subjects: Political Science, American Politics
Open Access : 9780472904532, 392 pages, 21 tables, 36 figures, 6 x 9, July 2024
Paperback : 9780472056880, 392 pages, 21 tables, 36 figures, 6 x 9, July 2024
Hardcover : 9780472076888, 392 pages, 21 tables, 36 figures, 6 x 9, July 2024
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Why the U.S. campaign finance system is difficult to fix

Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Chapter 1: Democracy and Capitalism
Chapter 2: Corruption and Campaign Finance in the U.S.
Chapter 3:  From Buckley to BCRA: Innovation, Adaptation, and Litigation
Chapter 4: The Triumph of Free Speech and BCRA’s Undoing
Chapter 5: The Players and the Game: Individuals, Parties and Groups
Chapter 6: The Players and the Game: Candidates
Chapter 7: Disclosure of Campaign Money and Enforcement of the Laws
Chapter 8: Why we have the system we have
Appendix: Major Acts, Regulations, Court Decisions, etc. Mentioned in This Book


Before the U.S. campaign finance system can be fixed, we first have to understand why it has developed into the system as it exists today. The nature of democracy itself, the American capitalist economic system, the content of the U.S. Constitution and how it is interpreted, the structure of our governmental institutions, the competition for governmental power, and the behavior of campaign finance actors have all played a role in shaping the system.

The Fundamentals of Campaign Finance in the U.S. takes care to situate the campaign finance system in the context of the broader U.S. political and economic system. Dwyre and Kolodny offer readers a brief tour through the development of the campaign finance regulatory structure, highlighting the Supreme Court’s commitment to free speech over political equality from Buckley v. Valeo (1976) through the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA, 2002). They also examine the driving force behind campaign finance reform—corruption—through historical, transactional, and institutional perspectives. While diving into the insufficiency of the disclosure and enforcement of campaign finance laws and calling attention to multiple federal agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, and (principally) the Federal Election Commission, the authors show how a narrow view on campaign finance makes change difficult and why reforms often have limited success. By examining the fundamentals, Dwyre and Kolodny show the difficulties of changing a political system whose candidates have always relied on private funding of campaigns to one that guarantees free speech rights while minimizing concerns of corruption.

Diana Dwyre is Professor of Political Science and Coordinator of the Social Science Program at California State University, Chico.
Robin Kolodny is Professor of Political Science at Temple University.

“A comprehensive synthesis of U.S. campaign finance is long overdue. Dwyre and Kolodny have emerged as the deans of U.S. campaign finance, and the excellent work at hand shows why. Dwyre and Kolodny have written an outstanding book that will quickly become the field’s go-to book.”

- Bruce Larson, Gettysburg College

“Provides a one-stop-shopping overview of contemporary campaign finance issues in U.S. elections.”

- Costas Panagopoulos, Northeastern University

“Anyone interested in campaign finance should read Dwyre and Kolodny’s book. Especially insightful is their analysis of the effects of political parties, interest groups, and the federal courts on the transition from a regulatory system that focused on deterring corruption to a system that allows for virtually unfettered spending in the name of free speech.”

- Paul Herrnson, University of Connecticut