Brendan J. DohertyNov 13, 2023
Fundraiser in Chief
Presidents and the Politics of Campaign Cash
University of Kansas Press 2023
Political Scientist Brendan Doherty has a new book that dives into the ways that presidents have raised money for themselves, their parties, and other elected officials over the past six decades. Doherty is an expert on campaign fundraising, especially by presidents, and Fundraiser in Chief: Presidents and the Politics of Campaign Cash (UP of Kansas, 2023) continues the research he has been doing in this area within political science. The overarching thesis of Doherty’s work in Fundraiser in Chief is examining the intersection between campaigning and governing, especially when it comes to the president him(her)self. Doherty’s chief claim in the book is that presidential fundraising, which is usually studied and explored in direct connection with presidential campaigns, should be more fully integrated into the other dynamics and components of how a president governs and uses his/her time. In an effort to examine the time spent fundraising, not just at public events, but also in private venues and closed events, Doherty compiled an extensive data set that includes information for every president from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump. (Doherty has continued to add to the data set to include President Joe Biden, but the research analyzed in the book concludes with the 2020 election cycle and Donald Trump’s presidency.)
This is a fascinating examination of fundraising, particularly as the laws and regulations have continued to change and shift over the decades. As Doherty notes, every time there is a shift, presidents pursue different options in order to fundraise for themselves, for their parties, and for other elected officials. And since fundraising is a constant undertaking, not just ramped up during election cycles, it needs to be considered alongside other dimensions of presidential governance, like speechmaking/rhetoric, congressional relations, foreign and domestic travel, and the other ways that presidents spend their scarcest resource, their time. The fundraising world that President Jimmy Carter entered, following the establishment of new laws, regulations, and restrictions on campaign fundraising after Watergate, is much different than the world in which former President Trump and President Biden are now operating as the 2024 election cycle moves forward. Presidents must make strategic choices around fundraising, and this also shapes the ways that individuals govern from the Oval Office, the way they work with members of their parties, and the way that they work with other elected officials. Fundraiser in Chief: Presidents and the Politics of Campaign Cash is an important contribution to the scholarship on the American presidency, especially in our understanding of how governing and fundraising and campaigning all integrate into each other.
Lilly J. Goren is a professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-host of the New Books in Political Science channel at the New Books Network. She is co-editor of The Politics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (University Press of Kansas, 2022), as well as co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012). She can be reached @gorenlj.bsky.social