The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform

(University of Chicago Press, 2006)

Book Forum
October 4, 2006 12:00PM
Auditorium/Wintergarden
Featuring the author John Samples, Director, Center for Representative Government, Cato Institute; with comments by Robert Bauer, Perkins & Coie; and Eliza Newlin Carney, National Journal.
Many Americans support campaign finance reform. They believe that private money in politics and elections corrupts and demeans our democracy. These concerns have contributed to a 40-year effort to regulate, restrict, and even eliminate private money in politics. But many Americans know that there is little or no evidence that campaign contributions really influence members of Congress? Or that so-called negative political advertising actually improves the democratic process by increasing voter turnout and knowledge? Or that limits on campaign contributions make it harder to run for office, thereby protecting incumbent representatives from losing their seats of power? The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform argues that our most common concerns about money in politics are misplaced. The chance to regulate money in politics allows representatives to serve their own interests at a cost to their constituents. And, ironically, the long crusade against the corruption caused by campaign contributions allows public officials to reduce their vulnerability by suppressing freedom of speech.