Please note that this event has been cancelled.
Why is it that only 14 percent of Americans approve of Congress, but over 95 percent of incumbents are reelected? The answer is that incumbents have significant advantages over their challengers, particularly in the availability of campaign funds. One of the principal reasons is that political parties are limited in the funding they can provide to their candidates. In the 2008 elections, permissible party contributions were about 1 percent of the cost of elections to the House and Senate. This did not hurt incumbents, who have many sources of campaign funds and many ways to enhance their name recognition, but it severely limits the financial resources available to challengers. The media regularly report on the funds poured into campaigns by party committees but rarely note that virtually all this spending is limited to independent activities, uncoordinated with the candidates and often counterproductive. In Better Parties, Better Government, AEI’s Peter J. Wallison, former White House counsel to President Ronald Reagan, and Brooklyn Law School’s Joel M. Gora, former legal counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union, argue that only one significant change in our campaign finance laws-eliminating the spending restrictions on parties-will turn our elections into the competitive contests they should be in a democracy.