Archive for the ‘United States’ Category

Spending in the New Jersey gubernatorial race

March 12, 2010

Jono has previously posted on the uncertain relationship between election spending and election outcomes (noting that other factors such as national partisan swings and candidate attributes mean that election spending is not strongly determinative of election outcomes).

Spending reports from last year’s governor’s race in New Jersey, in which the Republican challenger Chris Christie beat the incumbent Democratic governor Jon Corzine, provide an interesting data point.  Reports indicate that Corzine outspent Christie by 2-1. 

Realclearpolitics reports: 

The final tallies are in for the Gubernatorial race in New Jersey last year. Jon Corzine outspent Chris Christie two-to-one the primary and general election campaigns, $31.5 million to $15.5 million. Even those numbers are a bit misleading since Corzine was essentially unopposed in the primary while Christie had a legitimate race on his hands.

Additionally, the Republican Governor’s Association spent another $7.3 million on Christie’s behalf, which was offset by $7.1 million in spending by Democratic groups on Corzine’s behalf.

Despite the $15 million spending advantage, however, Corzine lost by four points.

So when politicians say that they need to impose restrictions on advertising to control the influence of “big money”, it’s worth asking whether there is any cogent evidence that the relationship between election spending and election outcomes is as direct as they claim or whether they are just making assumptions.

Colorado Supreme Court strikes down limits on campaign contributions

February 23, 2010

Continuing the campaign finance theme briefly, Volokh reports that the Colorado Supreme Court has just struck down certain campaign contribution limits. Campaign contribution limits are limits on the amount that one can contribute to a political candidate, as opposed to limits on expenditure independent of a candidate (ads saying vote for or against candidate X). It was this later type of restriction which the US Supreme Court considered in Citizens United.

Anyway, the case is Dallman v Ritter. The Denver Post has a supportive editorial here.

I haven’t had a chance to read the case in detail yet but once I do I may write a further post.

Will corporations rush to increase spending in US elections?

February 22, 2010

A fascinating article at Politico discusses the likely impact of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. Briefly, the Supreme Court found that a prohibition on corporations and unions engaging in electioneering communication or expressly advocating for the election or defeat of a candidate was a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.  There has been something of a Chicken Little response to the decision, as the video in Jesse’s comment below points out.

Anyway, the Politico article suggests that the response from corporates may be quite modest.  The article identifies a number of reasons why many corporations have been trying to get out of political giving:

In the past decade, corporations have actually been trying to get out of the business of big political giving. They sided with reform advocates when the McCain-Feingold law was first challenged in 2003 and testified on behalf of its ban on unlimited corporate giving to the political parties, which were dubbed “soft money” donations.

The reasons for this reluctance were complex. Some executives hated the way politicians always had their hands out, making appeals that were difficult to turn down for fear of retribution in the legislative process. Others didn’t like the lack of control they had over how their money was spent.

The court ruling would give corporate officials that control, but many of them may decide — especially those in publicly held companies — to keep the cash for their real business needs.

Running attack ads against political targets would create real risks of alienating customers and shareholders. And, given voters’ sentiments toward corporations today, most politicians would probably not welcome a glowing ad campaign on their behalf that was funded by Big Business.

The article goes on to note that:

The penchant CEOs have shown for keeping a low political profile for their businesses has been reinforced lately by shareholder groups that are pressing companies to publicly disclose their political spending and the process by which they distribute that money.

Currently, about 70 firms, or roughly half of the Standard & Poor’s top 100 companies including Microsoft, Aetna, and Time Warner, have adopted such practices.

Bruce Freed, head of the Center for Political Accountability, an organization that advocates for such disclosures, said he will redouble his efforts in light of the court ruling. He expects success largely because a shareholder disclosure policy will be a corporations best reason “to resist the heightened pressure” to give to political groups.

It will be interesting to watch the upcoming US midterm elections and see how corporates and unions respond to the Supreme Court’s decision.