The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform

By John Samples | Go to book overview

chapter six
Electoral Competition

Jon Corzine spent $63,209,506 to win the 2000 Democratic Senate primary in New Jersey and the general election.1 He won the general election against Republican Bob Franks by a vote of 50 percent to 47 percent. Many Americans saw Corzine's victory as vindication of the Golden Rule: “Them that have the gold, rule.” In other words, candidates with the most money buy election to office. The people do not control who is elected to public office, contributions do, and the Golden Rule is ironic testimony to the corruption of democracy. Having more money does give a candidate an advantage. Yet money does not simply buy elections.

Jon Corzine raised most of his money from one contributor: Jon Corzine. Campaign finance law permits individuals to contribute as much as they wish to their own campaign. Because individuals cannot corrupt themselves, the Constitution does not permit regulation of such contributions. Large contributions and high spending, however, do not guarantee victory. Steve Forbes, the publishing magnate, spent $30 million of his own money vainly pursuing the Republican presidential nomination in 1996.2 Two years earlier Michael Huffington had spent $28 million running for a senate seat in California, only to lose to Dianne Feinstein.3 Forbes and Huffington both lost by large margins. Ross Perot also financed his first run for the presidency, which garnered 20 percent of the vote but did not lead to the White House. These three are not the only wealthy selffinanciers to lose their bids for office.4

Corzine spent more than $30 million to beat a Republican challenger by 3 points in a predominately Democratic state. Democratic candidates won U.S. Senate seats from New Jersey in 2002 and 1996 by about 10 points and the governor's chair in 2001 by 14 points.5 Would Corzine's spending

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