Parties, Corruption and Campaign
Finance in America
Financing American national elections has several distinctive features: parties raise and spend only a minority of campaign money; individuals and interest groups supply the bulk of money raised; candidates and interest groups spend the majority of campaign money; election finance law limits donations, and requires disclosure of many expenditures and contributions; these laws have proved ineffective in containing costs or preventing wealthy interests from heavily funding elections; concern about corruption centres on the influence derived from legal uses of money. This chapter seeks to explain the formation of the campaign finance system, the forms corruption takes, and the obstacles to reforming the law to penalize and curb corrupt conduct.
Fears about the misuse of office for personal or sectional advantage informed the writing of the Constitution. Assuming human nature to be selfish, the Founders created a system of government designed to allow for the expression of self-interest whilst restraining its pernicious effects. Authority was fragmented between institutions and levels of government to restrict the range of powers any one interest could exercise. Power sharing between the institutions of national government fostered a competitive struggle between conflicting interests. Out of these clashes and compromises the Founders hoped to produce republican government: government in the public interest.