How Much Does Money Matter in Direct Democracy? – Commentary by John M. de Figueiredo

From Volume 78, Number 4 (May 2005)

The Supreme Court’s decision in McConnell v. FEC held that the broad outlines of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act passed both legal and constitutional scrutiny. The McConnell Court agreed with the defenders of the Act that the potential corruptive influence of special interest money in politics was a sufficient rationale for restricting the flow of money in unlimited quantities into candidate campaigns and political parties. Now the focus of activists has turned to ballot initiative and referendum campaigns. These groups have argued that the tight relationship of candidates to particular ballot initiatives creates the same corruptive influence that concerned the Court in candidate elections. Thus, there is an increasingly loud call for restrictions on ballot campaign financing.

It would seem, however, that before we heed calls for legislatively or judicially imposed restrictions on ballot measure financing, it would be prudent to know the effect of such financing on ballot outcomes. Knowing the effect of money in ballot measure campaigns would not only provide legal scholars with an important piece of information regarding whether restrictions on money are warranted, but it would also aid in the construction of those restrictions should they be needed. This short paper provides an overview of the statistical literature examining the effect of money on ballot measure outcomes and analyzes the validity of the statistical analyses.



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