Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

The Allocation of Party Controlled Campaign Resources in the House of Representatives, 1989-1996

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

The Allocation of Party Controlled Campaign Resources in the House of Representatives, 1989-1996

Article excerpt

Despite the well-documented decline of political parties in the electorate, the evidence shows that parties remain highly salient and visible within government, particularly in Congress, and the formal party organizations continue to play an active role in campaigns. Building on this evidence, we attempt to offer further insight into the goals and activities of contemporary American political parties by investigating the allocation of partycontrolled resources in congressional elections. In particular, we examine the resource allocation strategies employed by the Democratic and Republi.can parties' congressional (the DCCC and the NRCC) and national (DNC and RNC) campaign committees to assess if these resources are used to enhance party support within Congress or are motivated strictly by electoral concerns. Via tobit analysis, we test our specification using data for challengers and incumbents of both parties from 1989-96. Our results suggest that these resources, particularly for the Republican party, are prompted by campaign-specific factors and are not used to facilitate party support within Congress.

Studies of the role of political parties in the American political system have suggested two broad conclusions. First, the role of parties in the electorate is weaker than it once was. At the same time, however, the role of the formal party organizations appears to have strengthened, and parties remain the dominant organizing principle of American politics (Cox and McCubbins 1993). This is particularly the case within Congress, where the parties continue to be highly partisan and salient (Rohde 1991). In light of these patterns, recent scholarship has begun to reexamine the organization, activity and structure of the parties in an attempt to assess their role and function in elections (Cantor and Herrnson 1997; Herrnson 1988; Jacobson 1985-86, 1993; Leyden and Borrelli 1990) and in the governing process (Aldrich and Rohde 1996; Cox and McCubbins 1993).

Building upon this literature, we investigate the resource allocation strategies employed by the Democratic and Republican parties' congressional (the DCCC and the NRCC) and national (DNC and RNC) campaign committees as a function of the larger institutional context in which members, party leaders, and the party organizations work to achieve their specific and, at times, conflicting goals. Consistent with past research in this area, we examine if these allocations are made in a manner that fosters party support or as a function of campaign-specific factors such as vulnerability, challenger quality, and need. However, in contrast with prior research, we extend our analysis to account for allocations to both challengers and incumbents across election cycles, control for a number of potentially significant variables, and use more appropriate methodology

In doing so, we have the opportunity to increase our understanding of the dynamics and linkages between behavior occurring in Congress with behavior occurring in the campaign arena, as well as to shed light on how the preferences and goals of individual members and the parties in Congress are juxtaposed and balanced. Collectively, these concerns have broader implications regarding issues of representation and the role and health of the parties in our political system.

COMPETING GOALS AND THE ALLOCATION OF PARTY CONTROLLED CAMPAIGN RESOURCES

Central to the congressional research is the contention that the primary goal of individual members is reelection. Indeed, as Mayhew (1974) and others have argued, the bulk of members' activity is directly or indirectly geared toward achieving reelection. However, the pursuit of members' reelection goals can inhibit the ability of the parties to fulfill their goals; most notably the passage of legislation and the creation of public policy that reflects the parties' preferences.

This intersection of goals and the resulting tension between them presents an interesting puzzle: when are the interests of individual members subordinated to those of their party and vice versa? …

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