Raymond La Raja and Brian Schaffner

Campaign Finance and Political Polarization

When Purists Prevail

University of Michigan Press 2015

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network November 29, 2015 Heath Brown

For much of the last 50 years, there has been a consensus that restrictions on political money would improve politics and government. Federal and...

For much of the last 50 years, there has been a consensus that restrictions on political money would improve politics and government. Federal and state campaign finance reforms aimed to do just that. In their recent book Campaign Finance and Political Polarization: When Purists Prevail (University of Michigan Press, 2015), Raymond La Raja and Brian Schaffner reach a surprising and contradictory conclusion. Examining state-level data over several decades, they find that restrictions on campaign finance are associated with a more polarized legislatures and more money steered to groups outside mainstream politics. Restrictions empower the purists and weaken the pragmatists. Instead, the authors suggest that political parties might be strengthened if certain campaign finance restrictions were loosened, and party pragmatists could then provide the moderating influence on politics that they have in the past.