Midterm: The Elections of 1994 in Context

By Philip A. Klinkner | Go to book overview

raised a smaller proportion of their funds in contributions of less than $200 and a larger proportion in contributions of $750 or more than did Republicans. The difference is especially striking in the data for Senate races, which were skewed by the North factor. Even in the House, however, Democrats relied less on small contributions and more on large contributions than did Republicans. For example, on average House Democratic incumbents received $83,000 in contributions of less than $200 and $93,000 in contributions of $750 or more; Republican incumbents received an average of $130,000 in contributions of less than $200 and $77,000 in contributions of $750 or more.

If the 1994 election showed that, in retrospect, the electoral base that kept Democrats in power in Congress for most of this century was fragile, evidence about PACs and individual contributors paints a similar portrait of the party's financial base. By the end of the 1980s Democratic incumbents seemed not only to have survived the threat of PACs but to have turned it to their own advantage. All along, however, their relationship with many of these PACs was a marriage not of love, but of convenience. At the same time the base of their individual contributions became tilted more toward large donations. Meanwhile, even with the stalwart support of labor PACs, Democratic challengers faced chronic shortages of money. The natural allies of Republicans in the PAC community were of far more help to the GOP's incumbents than to its challengers. Yet incumbents and challengers for the Republicans had the capacity to generate significant money not only in large individual contributions but in small ones as well. There is an irony here. The Republican party that gained control of Congress in 1994 did so in part because of its ability to mobilize small individual contributions in a way that fit traditional Democratic rhetoric. The Democratic party that lost its grip on power had a financial base that, except for labor, looked like what one might traditionally have expected for Republicans.


CONCLUSION

Now, the loss of governing power has jeopardized much of the Democrats' financial base. It was power that enabled Democrats to collect spectacular sums from PACs--$1,158,072 for Speaker Tom Foley, $799,199 for once--Ways and Means ChairmanDan Rostenkowski, $829,967 for his successor, Sam Gibbons. Money did not save Foley or Rostenkowski, and the $1,155,373 spent by Gibbons earned him only 52 percent of the vote against challenger Mark Sharpe, who spent less than half a million dollars, including only $47,064 from PACs. Ranking Minority Member Gibbons, one strongly suspects, will be a much less attractive donee to inhabitants of "Gucci Gulch" than was Chairman Gibbons. Groups seeking to use campaign contributions to gain access on specific issues of policy will still gravitate to power, but in the 104th Congress that power is held by Republicans.

Republicans began their efforts to redirect interested political money even before the election when Gingrich warned, "for anyone who's not on board now, it's going to be the two coldest years in Washington." And after the election, Charles

-94-

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Midterm: The Elections of 1994 in Context
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Transforming American Politics ii
  • Forthcoming Titles iii
  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1: The 1994 House Elections in Perspective 1
  • Notes 20
  • 2: Eight More in '94: The Republican Takeover of the Senate 21
  • Notes 45
  • 3: "Permanent Minority" No More: House Republicans in 1994 47
  • Notes 60
  • 4: Court and Country in American Politics: The Democratic Party and the 1994 Election 61
  • Notes 78
  • 5: Money in the 1994 Elections and Beyond 81
  • Conclusion 94
  • 6: The 1994 Electoral Aftershock: Dealignment Or Realignment in the South 99
  • Conclusion 110
  • 7: The Politics of Pragmatism: The Christian Right and the 1994 Elections 115
  • 8: In Search of the Angry White Male: Gender, Race, and Issues in the 1994 Elections 125
  • Notes 136
  • 9: Re-Exploring the Weak-Challenger Hypothesis: The 1994 Candidate Pools 137
  • Notes 153
  • 10: Innovative Midterm Elections 157
  • Notes 170
  • References 171
  • About the Book 183
  • About the Editor and Contributors 185
  • Index 189
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