The Lonely Centrist

A place for reasoned debate about the issues of the day.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Do small donors matter?

McCain-Feingold doesn't seem to have accomplished much. Campaigns remain expensive and negative, special interest influence remains unchecked, and office holders still spend a lot of time raising funds.

This doesn't stop supporters from claiming success. But they don't have much to point to. So the one thing they do point to is that the national political parties are raising more contributions in small amounts. OK, fair enough.

Does that matter? This recent joint report of the Campaign Finance Institute and the Institute for Politics and Democracy on the Internet suggests not. As the Washington Post sums it up:

Because there is not a major ideological difference between all large
and small donors, the authors of the study concluded that the "increasing
numbers of small donors are not a polarizing influence."

But that would also mean that small donors don't really change the impact of big donors, wouldn't it? It would suggest that when candidates respond to the interest of big donors, they are also responding to the interest of small donors. And from there it is hardly a leap to suggest that they are also responding to the interests of their constituents and the voters to whom they are ultimately accountable. If that's true, the entire rationale for campaign finance regulation comes apart.

One wonders why the Pew funded folks at IPDI and CFI - who are true believers in "reform," if slightly more moderate than than other true believers, figured this out before publishing their report.

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