Assessing the Need for Further Campaign Finance Reform:
The 2008 Elections and the Impact of Recent Supreme Court Rulings
David B. Magleby, Principle Investigator
Jay Goodliffe, Co-Investigator
In the 2008 election cycle, CSED will systematically monitor candidates, party committees, interest groups, and individual donors to assess the impact of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) and the Supreme Court decision in Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. v. Federal Election Commission
. This research will result in a book on the evolution of campaign finance reform and electioneering since 1971. Because BCRA does not include provisions governing such key modes of electioneering as mail, telephone, and voter mobilization—which past CSED research has found to be substantial—it is important to assess both what is happening under BCRA’s provisions and what is occurring outside the new law.
CSED's methodology and time frame allow us to answer the following key questions: Is the surge in individual contributions a trend, or was it an artifact of the 2004 election? Can both parties cultivate individual donors? What happened to the pre-BCRA party soft money donors? Who funds 527 and 501(c) committees? What is the mix of large and small donors to candidates and political party committees? To what extent is the Internet used in fundraising by candidates, party committees, and interest groups (including 527 and 501(c) organizations)? How will these committees operate in an open-seat presidential election? To what extent will voter registration and mobilization drives undertaken in 2004 be repeated in 2008, and by whom? What impact do the different modes of communications have on voters? We will merge data from previous and recent cycles, allowing an examination of these questions over a broader time horizon.
The current project, like those in previous cycles, relies on both qualitative and quantitative research strategies. Utilizing matching software and a supercomputer, we will match individuals making contributions over time. A stratified survey of donors will be taken to answer the questions listed above. CSED has documented how campaigns were financed and conducted in 95 U.S. congressional contests between 1998 and 2006. Monitoring campaigns from the ground up allowed us to document how groups and parties between 1998 and 2002 used issue ads and soft money to circumvent campaign finance legislation, and this monitoring is just as beneficial today to learning about Section 527 and 501(c) organizations and activities not covered by BCRA. To be effective, these groups must communicate with voters. The CSED methodology detects campaign communications through a reconnaissance network organized at the congressional district or state level. The CSED researchers will again conduct extensive on-the-record interviews with interest groups, party committees, and other participants in the process on their involvement in all modes of electioneering in 2008.
The research on this project is ongoing. Please check back for updates.