Game Changers: How Dark Money and Super PACs Are Transforming U.S. Campaigns

Game Changers: How Dark Money and Super PACs Are Transforming U.S. Campaigns

by Henrik M. Schatzinger, Steven E. Martin

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The first book of its kind to provide an accessible overview of the changes Citizens United brought to political campaigns and political representation, it combines rigorous academic research with many examples of ongoing trends from the campaign trail. Even though campaign finance involves complex legal issues, the book is set up to be engaging for both students of political campaigns and American politics, as well as civically engaged citizens who want to learn more about outside groups and their impact on campaigns and public policy.
The book makes the case that Super PACs and dark money groups qualify as game changers of political campaigns not only because of what these groups can do independently from candidates and their increasing ability to match or even exceed candidates’ financial resources, but because their actions influence the political incentives and strategies of candidates and political parties. We also point out evidence that those changes go beyond campaigns—they affect how legislators represent their constituents; how donors put pressure on lawmakers to adopt certain legislation after outside groups supported them; how the regulatory environment can benefit donors as a result of actions taken by federal agencies to repeal or dismantle existing laws; and how extreme positions by politicians can be incentivized and progress stalled when megadonors and outside groups reward political ideologues.
Our hope is that this text inspires readers to draw their own conclusions about the effects the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has had and continues to have on the inner workings of American democracy. Some may even feel moved to take action that will empower ordinary citizens who want to have more of a voice in the democratic process. Given the high stakes associated with elections and the political changes they can bring due to the highly polarized political environment we live in, we believe that this book will add value to not only courses focusing on campaigns, elections, interest groups, and political communication, but also other courses such as introductory American Government courses.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781538136188
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 02/13/2020
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 252
Sales rank: 753,237
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Henrik M. Schatzinger is associate professor and chair of politics and government at Ripon College, where he teaches and conducts research on interest groups and money in politics. He is also codirector of the Center for Politics and the People at Ripon College, which organizes numerous events to promote constructive political debate. Schatzinger’s research has examined the timing of campaign contributions and as a research analyst for the Campaign Finance Institute (2008–9), he has examined how democracy can be strengthened through small donors and volunteers. A new article coauthored by Schatzinger on lobbying for federal contracts is forthcoming in Social Science Quarterly. Schatzinger is teaching courses on campaigns and elections, interest groups, and money in politics.

Steven E. Martin is professor of communication and chair of the department at Ripon College, in Ripon, WI. He has published book chapters and articles about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s discourse about public unions, the labor movement’s use of visual rhetoric as counter-propaganda, and the controversies surrounding NFL players’ decisions to kneel during the national anthem. He teaches courses on the First Amendment, political campaign communication, American public address, environmental communication, media and society, and public speaking. He holds degrees from Colorado State University (M.A.) and The Pennsylvania State University (Ph.D.).

Table of Contents

About the Authors

1. Super PACs and Dark Money as Game Changers
Understanding Differences Among Groups
Trump vs Pro-Trump Groups
How are Campaigns Changing?
Campaign Finance
Candidate-Group Signaling, Group-Group Coordination, and Candidate-Voter Communication
Effects on Political Parties
Dark Money Groups and Anonymity
Representation and Political Influence
Additional Reading

2. The First Amendment and Legal Issues
First Amendment Theory
The Marketplace of Ideas Model
The Self-Governance Model
The Liberty Model
Significant Legislation and Court Cases
The Federal Election Campaign Act
Buckley v. Valeo (1976)
Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee v. FEC
The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act
FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life Inc. (2007)
Citizens United v. FEC (2010)
SpeechNow v. FEC (2010)
McCutcheon v. FEC (2014)
Legal Issues Related to Political Campaigns: Four Tensions
To What Extent Should “Corporations” Have First Amendment Rights?
(When) Should Money be Protected as Speech?
Where Should We Draw the Lines of Responsiveness and Corruption?
Campaign Transparency: Do Voters Have a Right to Know Who Is Funding Campaign-Related Speech?
Additional Reading

3. Donors, Group Expenditures, and Representation
Super PAC Donors
Super PAC Recipients
Dark Money Donors
Dark Money Recipients
Group Expenditures
Purpose of Super PAC Expenditures
Ideological Breakdown of Dark Money Spending
Political Activity Versus Social Welfare
Nonprofits’ Political Spending and Activities
Implications of Findings
“So What?” Effects on Candidates and Representation
Additional Reading

4. New Trends in Presidential Campaigns
Democratic Candidates, Trump, and Outside Groups in the 2020 Presidential Campaign
New Trends Since Citizens United
Playing the Delay Game
The Staff Shell Game
The New Money Primary
The Presidential Primary Vacuum
The Increasing Importance of Leadership PACs
Playing Pinball with Joint Fundraising Committees
Official Party Committees
Super PAC Activities Without Coordination
Super PACs Versus Incumbent Presidents During the Primaries
The Republican Conundrum: Super PAC Help vs. Damaged Goods Theory
Coordinated Expenditures and the Parties’ Ground Game
The Small Donor Revolution
Additional Reading

5. New Trends in Congressional Campaigns
What We Know From the Literature
Congressional Campaign Trends Since Citizens United
Independent Expenditures
The Electoral Strategy: A Focus on Competitive Races and the Ideological Composition of Congress
Organizational Diversity Among Super PACs and Its Impact
Organized Blitz Campaigns and Continuous Ad Firestorms
Super PACs Disclosing their Donors After an Election
Effects on Political Parties
Outside Group Effect
Additional Reading

6. Political Advertising in the Post-Citizens United Era
Outside Group Advertisements in Federal Elections Since 2010
2010: Congressional Midterm Elections
2012: Presidential and Congressional Elections
2014: Congressional Midterm Elections
2016: Presidential and Congressional Elections
2018: Congressional Midterm Elections
Anonymity and Accountability
Deception in the Content of Group Ads
Why Disclosure Matters
Digital Political Advertising
Native Advertising
Foreign Dark Money and Digital Advertising
The Tone and Content of Political Ads
Tone and Content in Outside Group Ads
Case Study: The 2018 Florida Senate Race
Case Study: Outside Groups Against Trump in 2020
Does Political Advertising Matter?
Free Media Coverage
Additional Reading

7. Ideas for Reform
Increase “Hard Money” Contribution Limits
Variation: Allow Parties and PACs but Not Candidates to Receive Increased Donations
Problems Hard Money Contribution Increases Can Reduce
Public Funding
Fully Funded Public Elections
Matching Funds
Partial Public Funding
Tax Incentives
Drawbacks of Public Funding
Benefits of Public Funding
Super PAC and Independent Expenditure Insurance
Drawbacks of Super PAC Insurance
Benefits of Super PAC Insurance
Legislative Recusal
Drawbacks of Recusal Rules
Benefits of Recusal Rules
Disclosure Reform
Reporting and Collecting Donor and Expenditure Information
A Disclosure Plan for Better Dissemination
Digital Ad Disclaimers
Drawbacks of Enhanced Disclosure and a Compromise
Benefits of Better Disclosure
Federal Election Commission Reform
Judicial Reform
Additional Reading


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