New Supreme Court Decision Means Campaigns Without Spending Limits?

by kris bishop on January 25, 2010

by Raymond J. La Raja, author of Small Change: Money, Political Parties, and Campaign Finance Reform

Small change_bookcover

In a guest post, Ray LaRaja, an expert in campaign finance at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, examines the impact of the  Supreme Court ruling that rolled back spending limits. Originally published Jan 22, 2010, at

“Who benefits from this ruling? Going into the midterms, it likely helps Republicans who now have momentum and a game plan — thanks to the GOP victory in Massachusetts. Party loyalists will set up operations to raise corporate funds and run ads in targeted districts. These groups will have names like, “American Patriots for Jobs” paid for by a bevy of like-minded corporate firms. Not all corporate groups will play this game — it could backfire on them with the public. Don’t forget that unions can do the same thing. In the next midterm, ads will be sharper, negative and more prolific since interest groups don’t have to obfuscate the message by avoiding electioneering words. They can simply say, “A vote for her is a vote to raise taxes!” Broadcasts will be jam-packed with campaign ads up through Election Day. (Hint: a good ground game might be more effective in this saturated environment.)

And what about the presidential election? President Obama is surely not pleased about this outcome for strategic, if not moral concerns. This ruling eviscerates his financial edge in raising money. The Obama campaign broke all records raising over $700 million from large and small donors, many of them over the Internet. Now he can expect corporate-backed advertising to be used against him. It is doubtful he will dissuade liberal groups (as he did is 2008) from joining the fray. He will need them this time!”

Also check out: Money Isn’t Speech and Corporations Aren’t People: The Misguided Theories Behind the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Campaign Finance Reform, an article by David Kairys, author of PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM, on


Small Change: Money, Political Parties, and Campaign Finance Reform

by Raymond J. La Raja


ISBN: 978-0-472-05028-4



“This book is a substantial contribution to the literature on campaign finance reform.”

“Sen. Barack Obama’s groundbreaking decision to reject public financing was widely criticized by good government groups and reform-minded lawmakers in both parties. However, Small Change: Money, Political Parties, and Campaign Finance Reform, predicted this would be a direct result of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law — the same law supported by most of those now blasting Obama’s decision…Ultimately, La Raja favors a series of reforms that strengthen the political parties, including higher contribution limits to the national parties and allowing greater party coordinated spending. These proposals acknowledge that past reforms efforts to limit campaign money were doomed to fail and that no one should be surprised of the campaign finance system that resulted. It’s an interesting book, very timely and highly recommended.”
—Taegen Goddard, Political Wire

“Ray La Raja has launched with his new book a major reconsideration of the terms in which campaign finance regulation is understood. In place of the debate we have had for years, now stale and unproductive, he asks for a realistic appraisal of the interests served by regulation and its costs—including an original view of the competing interests of different factions even within parties. His account is particularly compelling in showing the adverse effects of the current regulatory scheme on political parties overall, and he takes the responsible course of matching his analysis to fresh policy recommendations. His book will be read widely, and it will make a difference.”
—Robert Bauer, Chair of the Political Law Group of Perkins Coie LLP

“The most thorough and up-to-date account of the historical evolution of campaign finance regulation in the United States available.”

—Gary Jacobson, Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego

“La Raja avoids reformist rhetoric and skillfully analyzes the consequences of campaign finance reform for the political parties.”
—Sandy Maisel, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government, Colby College

“Ray La Raja gives us a superior investigation of campaign finance regulations and how they have affected the American political parties.”
—Robert Mutch, Historian, Author of Campaigns, Congress, and Courts: The Making of Federal Campaign Finance Law

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