Zim Nwokora, "The
distinctive politics of campaign finance reform," Party
Politics, 20 (November, 2014), 918-929. [Available
What processes propel campaign finance reforms? The
literature on the financing of politics presents inadequate
answers to theoretical questions on the origins of
institutional change in this context.1 As Hopkin (2004: 628)
explains, 'major comparative studies
have tended to
lack a consistent theoretical framework' and the field as a
whole is 'undertheorized'. This article proposes a general
theory of the causes and consequences of campaign finance
reforms. It provides a coherent explanation of three
empirical puzzles that are beyond the reach of existing
partial theories. First, that lawmakers sometimes enact
reforms that make elections more competitive even though
these increase their electoral vulnerability (Dennis, 1998:
641-649; La Raja, 2008: 83; Scarrow, 2004: 654). Secondly,
party system scholars observe inter-party collusion -
between rivals for office - to introduce publicly funded
subsidies (Blyth and Katz, 2005; Katz and Mair, 1995).
Thirdly, money-politics scandals, though sometimes a
precursor of reform, are neither necessary nor sufficient as
an explanation of reforms in general (Jiménez, 2004;
La Raja, 2008: 84-86; Zelizer, 2002). The article's
theoretical synthesis therefore integrates diverse, and
partly divergent, empirical observations.
- Figure 1. Interactions in the monopoly game.
- Table 1. Payoffs in the Monopoly Game.
- Figure 2. Left-right ideological spectrum and
tightness-looseness issue spectrum.
- Figure 3. Cooperation between parties L and R.
- Table 2. Campaign finance reform matrix.
This theoretical synthesis reconciles the major empirical
observations on campaign finance politics. Yet it remains
incomplete because it treats campaign finance politics in
abstraction when they are, in fact, affected by games in
other arenas. To understand particular reforms we may
need to examine these inter-game interactions. But the
generic treatment in this article provides starting
points for deeper, theory-driven analyses of the
intervening effects of institutional veto players,
political culture and democratic norms on the incentives
underlying financing politics.