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The State of Campaign Finance in the U.S.

The U.S. campaign finance system has undergone fundamental changes in the last 15 years. The law has changed, as the courts have sharply limited Congress’s authority to regulate corporate and union election expenditures and have created new vehicles for money to flow into election campaigns. The politics of campaign finance has changed, as these new actors, especially Super PACs, have grown in significance and redefined the roles of insiders and outsiders to the electoral system. The technology has changed, as the internet, social media, and mobile devices have chipped away at television as the predominant mode of political campaigning.

Relying on new research from several of the nation’s foremost experts on the topic, this report—authored by Nathaniel Persily, Robert F. Bauer, and Benjamin L. Ginsberg—attempts to assess these changes. The goal of this report and the larger research effort that produced it is to clarify the dynamics of the modern campaign finance system in the United States. To this end, the effort produced a set of studies and a bipartisan report drawn from the best social science relating to the changing dynamics of the U.S. campaign finance system. The report examines the legal, political, and technological shifts that have combined to shape the current campaign finance regime.

Additional Resources

Trends in Campaign Financing, 1980-2016
Zachary Albert

Donor Networks and Their Influence in Congressional Primaries, 1980-2014
Zachary Albert, Bruce A. Desmarais, and Raymond J. La Raja

Funding the State Political Party Committees Pre- and Post-BCRA, 1999–2016
Edwin Bender and the National Institute of Money in State Politics

Avenues of Influence: On the Political Expenditures of Corporations and their Directors and Executives
Adam Bonica

Political Parties and Campaign Finance What Role Do the National Parties Play?
Diana Dwyre

Motivations of Political Contributors: An Audit
Eitan D. Hersh and Brian F. Schaffner

The Impact of Organizational Characteristics on Super PAC Financing and Independent Expenditures
Paul S. Hernson

Costs, Spending and Contributions Literature
Robin Kolodny

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