Political Mischief: Smear, Sabotage, and Reform in U.S. Elections

By Bruce L. Felknor | Go to book overview

11 Buying and Stealing Votes

Public concern over money in politics began to rise in the first decade of the twentieth century, and it has not subsided. Concern has focused on who gives, who gets, and what the money buys. Votes? Influence? Access? Civic pride? Costs have escalated relentlessly, and the money to defray them has never been lacking. Nor have public and media fascination with the subject.

What precipitated this attention were press reports soon after 1900 that corporations and other moneyed interests--then often seen as the last of the robber barons--were making enormous contributions to politicians for campaign expenses. Reformers in and out of Congress sought legislative remedies, and counter-reformers sought to derail them. Before long scholars began to examine the phenomenon of political money.


THE STUDY OF FINANCING ELECTIONS

Four political scientists stand out in that company. James K. Pollock of the University of Michigan got the ball rolling, publishing Party Campaign Funds in 1927. Two important works came from Louise Overacker of Wellesley College, Money in Elections ( 1932) and Presidential Campaign Funds ( 1946). Alexander Heard of the University of North Carolina and later chancellor of Vanderbilt University, wrote the definitive The Costs of Democracy ( 1960). Heard was a prime mover in establishing a unique institution, the Citizens' Research Foundation (CRF).

CRF is devoted explicitly to study and publishing in the once arcane field of electoral finance. That the field is no longer arcane may be attributed largely to the foundation's work. Originally situated at Princeton, N.J., since 1978 it has been part of the University of Southern California, where its director, Herbert E. Alexander, is a professor of political science. Alexander was Heard's protégé in a research project on money in politics at the Uni

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