Campaign Finance by Robert E Mutch

Campaign Finance by Robert E Mutch

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Campaign Finance is a look at the history of political fundraising in America, both in terms of legislation and practice. It would be easy in a book like this to take a very partisan approach to critiquing the use of Political Action Committees (PACs) and not-for-profits to raise funds for election campaigns. The author manages to maintain a fairly even position, perhaps because both of the major political parties are equal opportunity offenders when it comes to these kind of shenanigans.

I think that it is probably naive to believe that people who do not donate large sums on money to their favourite politicians do not expect something in return. Yes, doing so through a not-for-profit provides some obfuscation, but they wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t think they were going to get something out of it as a result.

Something I felt was missing was a reasonable explanation of the reasons which drive the need to raise the kinds of sums involved in running a political campaign. Just looking at the amount of ‘electioning’ that goes on, particularly in getting a presidential candidate from being a wannabe through to actually getting the party’s nomination,it seems to me that the system is set up to require the absurd amounts of finance. If the system were simplified, or reduced somehow, surely it would eliminate much of the cost of running a campaign.  But maybe that’s just me.

Although a fairly short book, the author manages to touch on most of the major issues which are involved, and covers the major historical developments over the past century or so. It is informative and up to date, addressing issues around the 2012 and 2016 election campaigns. I suppose – for good or ill – it is a non-partisan book, but I believe it fails to address some of the questions that are begging to be answered.

4 stars.

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