David Brooks belittles effects of campaign cash

In his October 19 New York Times column, David Brooks plays down the importance of political campaign spending:

Political scientists have tried to measure the effectiveness of campaign spending using a variety of methodologies. There is no consensus in the field. One large group of studies finds that spending by incumbents makes no difference whatsoever, but spending by challengers helps them get established. Another group finds that neither incumbent nor challenger spending makes a difference. Another group finds that both kinds of spending have some impact.

But there’s no evidence to suggest that campaign spending has the outsize role that the candidates, the consultants and the political press often imagine.

Brooks’s column discusses only the impact of campaign spending in determining who gets elected. What he neglects to mention is that because “[t]he candidates are horribly insecure and grasp at any straw that gives them a sense of advantage,” campaign contributions buy the contributors the access and influence they seek.

Brooks’s claim that “[t]he main effect of [the skyrocketing spending of independent groups] is to make the rubble bounce” actually supports the argument that citizen funding of campaigns doesn’t need to match the spending of privately funded opponents: Once a challenger has enough funding to get established, more funding provides little advantage.

About Hamilton Richards

He retired in 2006 as a Senior Lecturer in Computer Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. These days he volunteers technical support for Citizens' Climate Lobby (Austin chapter), Common Ground for Texans, (CG4Tx.org), Integrity Texas (IntegrityTexas.org), Austin Rowing Club, and several friends.
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