The widely reported fund-raising abuses in the 1996 federal elections may have focused the attention of the political community on the need for campaign finance reform, but the obstacles to enacting constructive changes in the law remain daunting. Philosophical differences, partisan calculations, incumbent self-protection, and public disengagement have combined to frustrate recent efforts to patch the leaks that have sprung in our campaign finance system, and this round may prove as unproductive as the others. If progress is to be made, an essential first step is understanding how current campaign finance practices evolved from past decisions and what legal and administrative questions must be addressed in moving the system in a desired direction.
This book is an unusual one for Brookings in that it combines reprints of key documents shaping the statutory and administrative framework for campaign finance regulation with original essays that guide readers over an exceedingly complex legal terrain. The idea for the book originated with Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and currently a partner in Wiley, Rein & Fielding, and Daniel Ortiz, a professor of law at the University of Virginia. They brought their idea to Thomas Mann, director of Governmental Studies at Brookings, who responded favorably and developed it into a Brookings project. Two additional experts on campaign finance--Anthony Corrado, an associate professor of government at Colby College, and Frank Sorauf, Regents' Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Minnesota-- were recruited to join the editorial team.
Many individuals and institutions contributed to the successful completion of this book. Tara Adams Ragone was indispensable in managing the flow of materials among the editors, providing research assistance, obtaining reprint permissions, verifying the accuracy of the manuscript, and preparing it for posting on our website and for publication. In addition, Matthew Atlas verified chapters 3 and 4, Laurel Imig provided research assistance on chapter 2, Patricia Fowlkes and Kristen Lippert- Martin assisted with chapter 8, Steph Selice edited the manuscript, Marla Brown Fogelman, proofread it, and Julia Petrakis prepared the index.
Anthony Corrado wishes to thank Dawn DiBlasi and Katherine Charbonnier for their editorial and research assistance on chapters 6 and 9. Daniel Ortiz thanks Dianne Johnson for her invaluable administrative support. Trevor Potter is grateful for the generous support provided by the law firm of Wiley, Rein & Fielding to this project, in particular for the research assistance of Michael Toner, Allison Hayward, and Jason Cronic. Frank Sorauf is indebted to his research assistant, David Frisch, and to Bob Biersack of the Federal Election Commission, who has helped almost everyone in the country who is writing on campaign finance.
Financial support was provided by The Joyce Foundation and the Cissy Patterson Trust. The views expressed in this book are those of the authors and should not be ascribed to the trustees, officers, or other staff members of the Brookings Institution.
MICHAEL H. ARMACOST