Campaign Finance

Campaign finance refers to all funds that are raised and spent in order to promote candidates, parties or policies in some sort of electoral contest. In modern democracies such funds are not necessarily devoted to election campaigns. Issue campaigns in referendums, party activities and party organizations are additional items to be funded by political money. When James K. Pollock and Louise Overacker began to analyze the role of money in politics, they started in the United States, looking at the money that was spent in order to influence the outcome of an (federal) election. Their take-off point has dominated perception of the subject ever since. Campaign funds is the subject heading under which all books dealing with money in politics are catalogued by the Library of Congress. Other countries have a different experience and use other terms for the subject. All of these terms offer a broader perspective. Cross-national comparisons prefer the more comprehensive "political finance", researchers in continental Europe use "party finance". All of them deal with "the costs of democracy", a term that was coined by Alexander Heard for his famous analysis of campaign finance in the U.S.

In the U.S. political action committee (PAC) and campaign are adequate terms to identify the units that raise and spend money for political purposes. Each campaign (for federal office) has to run a PAC that reports revenue and expenses to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Political campaigns have many expenditures, such as the cost of travel for the candidate, professional advice on topics like message and voter turnout (see campaign consulting) and the direct costs of communicating with voters, such as billboards, television advertising, and other channels. The types and purposes of campaign spending will change with the legal and social landscape that the campaign operates in; for instance, in Great Britain, television advertising is provided to campaigning parties for free, while in the United States it is one of the biggest line items in the campaign budget, especially for statewide and national-level campaigns.

For most other democracies (including the European countries, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Israel) political party is a useful concept to identify and aggregate the multitude of entities that raise and spend political funds. Parties run national headquarters, constituency associations, regional branches and local chapters as well as offices in the field (on the ground). Each of these units collects revenue and incurs expenses that are used to fund political competition.

Although the political science literature indicates that most contributors give to support parties or candidates with whom they are already in agreement, there is wide public perception that donors expect illegitimate government favors in return (such as specific legislation being enacted or defeated), so some have come to equate campaign finance with political corruption and bribery. These views have led some governments to reform fundraising sources and techniques in the hope of eliminating perceived undue influence being given to monied interests. Another tactic is for the government, rather than private individuals and organizations, to provide funding for campaigns. Democratic countries have differing regulations on what types of donations to political parties and campaigns are acceptable. With the rise of super PACs, the jet-fueled political action committees that can take unlimited contributions, many campaign finance watchdogs have focused on the hundreds of millions of dollars being raised this presidential election cycle.Barker, Kim. "Donate." ProPublica. Web. 02 Apr. 2012.

Read more about Campaign Finance:  Private Financing, Public Financing, Regulation

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