The Fundraising Disadvantages Confronting American Political Parties

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Walter de Gruyter GmbH


In the wake of the Bi-Partisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 and subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court, American political parties face greater regulation than interest groups in terms of their ability to finance federal elections. While parties continue to be constrained by contribution limits, nearly all interest groups can now raise and spend money in unlimited amounts to influence elections. Further, many new groups formed to take advantage of these legal changes. Few studies address the ramifications of these developments for political parties’ fundraising capabilities. To see whether these disadvantages hamper party fundraising, I examine parties’ direct fundraising costs overtime and I use structural equation analysis to investigate the giving habits of party donors overtime. I find the fundraising cost of each dollar raised has risen and habitual party donors provide significant support to Super PACs. Habitual party donors have also become less consistent givers in the Democratic Party. I discuss the relationship of these findings to changes in party fundraising tactics and their implications for future efforts by the parties to maintain their revenue streams.