In a new paper, the Brennan Center comes to a somewhat surprising conclusion for a pro-campaign finance reform group: targeted measures to divert money back into the official political parties could produce a more inclusive and transparent politics by balancing the power of the “independent” groups, like super PACs, that have come dominate our elections.
Before 2010’s Citizens United decision, reform groups like the Center backed legislation to limit contributions to political parties. While much of this regulation is still necessary to reduce the risk of corruption, the recent explosion of outside spending poses a whole host of other risks — and concentrates power in the hands of a few wealthy donors. Parties, on the other hand, are more transparent than super PACs and serve numerous constructive purposes that “independent” groups do not, especially by serving as engines of participation for ordinary citizens.
The authors propose:
- Making public financing available to parties;
- Raising or eliminating coordinated spending limits and other limits on party contributions to candidates;
- Lessening federal regulation of state and local parties;
- Relaxing certain disclosure requirements whose burdens outweigh their benefit while strengthening others, and;
- Relaxing certain restrictions on contributions to parties.
While eliminating all restrictions on party fundraising would be a mistake, a thoughtful combination of one or more of these measures could enhance the positive roles political parties play in our politics.
Read the full paper, Stronger Parties, Stronger Democracy: Rethinking Reform.
Read more about the Brennan Center’s work on money in politics.