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Welfare For Politicians? Taxpayer Financing of Campaigns

About the Book

Candidates and parties need money to fight election campaigns. In the United States, this money comes largely from individuals and groups—not the government and taxpayers. Many people criticize such private financing of politics. Private donations, they claim, advance special interests, thereby corrupting politics and government. Some critics argue that government should ban private campaign contributions in favor of financing by taxpayers. Since public money comes from everyone, they reason, it actually comes from no one, which cuts out corruption before it begins.

But taxpayer financing of campaigns—such as the income‐​tax check‐​off for presidential campaigns—has its share of critics who point out that public financing has often come up short in terms of increasing electoral competition. Another major problem concerns the taxpayers who are called on to fund these programs. Taxpayer financing, in polls and in reality, lacks public support. The public resists giving “welfare to politicians” to run their campaigns.

In Welfare for Politicians, leading analysts from both sides of the public financing debate address the history of these programs, including the successes and failures of the financing system for presidential elections. They also take up recent innovations in the states, including models of full taxpayer financing passed by initiative in Arizona, Maine, and Massachusetts. Together they offer a groundbreaking analysis of the problem and an instructive guide to future reform.

About the Editor

John Samples is director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute. He is also a fellow for the study of American government at Johns Hopkins University. Before joining Cato, Samples served for eight years as director of Georgetown University Press and, before that, as vice president of the Twentieth Century Fund. He received his PhD in political science from Rutgers University.

Backcover description

Public concern about corruption is a hallmark of American politics. Critics regularly decry the influence of “special interests,” who are said to buy legislatures and elections with “big money.” Others call for taxpayer financing of political campaigns as a way to exclude private interests from politics. Almost half the states have some form of public funding for campaigns, and taxpayers continue to subsidize presidential campaigns. How has public funding worked? Has it protected the integrity of the political process or simply provided “welfare for politicians” unable or unwilling to raise campaign funds voluntarily? This volume examines taxpayer financing of campaigns from various perspectives.