This transatlantic conference, the first part in Oxford in September, 2017, the second in Laguna Beach, in Winter 2018, addresses a large but curiously misunderstood subject: “What is the role of money in politics, particularly in, but not limited to, contemporary US politics?”
Some claim that campaign contributions have little impact on changing the position of elected officials because donors direct their funds to officials who already support their preferred policies. Others stress that money buys access and the ability to share information and messages that prioritize legislation of concern to donors and equip lawmakers to support the policy favored by the donor. However, the enormous growth in the amount of money committed to campaigns and the formation of donor networks may be expanding the impact of money on the recruitment of candidates and government policy at the state and national levels. A number of fundamental questions need attention. Does campaign spending affect election outcomes and, if so, how? With the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, what impact do financial regulations have on campaigns and election outcomes? Have changes in campaign finance contributed to economic inequality?
The issue of money in American politics is long standing and prompted the creation of the Federal Election Commission following the debacle of the Nixon presidency. Controlling and reforming campaign contributions became a significant theme in US politics, prompting judicial and legislative actions. In the last ten years, however, the issue has gained greater salience. The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010 delivered an extraordinary weakening in the regulatory regime governing the raising and distribution of money for and during elections. The role on money as the main element in America’s massive lobbying industry – around for instance earmarks – was exposed by the Washington Post journalist Robert Kaiser in his book So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government (Knopf, 2010), while another distinguished journalist, Jane Mayer, meticulously documented how charitable status foundations used their surpluses to advance an right-wing ideological agenda, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right (Doubleday, 2016).
These studies provide valuable resources to integrate into political science accounts of how – if at all – substantial money in US politics influences the structures and environment within which policy is made. The latter is a perennial issue and one germane to many political systems. To that end we plan a comparative dimension to the two workshops with sessions addressing money and politics in the US and Western Europe.
The format will be sessions organized thematically with participants preparing short
(2-3pp) memos. We have invited leading scholars with a balance of senior and early
PART ONE: NUFFIELD COLLEGE, OXFORD
15-16 SEPTEMBER 2017 (All meetings are in the Chester Room, staircase C)
Friday 15 September:
12:30 - 2:00: Arrive and Lunch (in Chester room annex)
2:00 - 3.45: Introduction: Has the US Government Unilaterally Disarmed in Regulating the Raising
and Use of Money in American Politics?
The Collapse of Campaign Finance Regulation and Limits on Campaign Contributions?
Lobbying and Capture in the U.S.
Ursula Hackett, Royal Holloway, London
Pepper Culpepper, Oxford
Simon Weschle, Syracuse
Bernie Grofman, UC Irvine
3.45 - 4.15: Coffee and tea break.
4:15 - 6:00: Money and Networks
Chair: Andy Eggers
Rise of the financial sector as a funder to both parties
It’s the Network – Progressive and Conservative Network Consortium
Alexander Hetel-Fernandez, Columbia
Larry Jacobs, Minnesota/Oxford
Nicholas Carnes, Duke.
Desmond King, Oxford
Lucy Barnes, UCL.
6:30: Reception - SCR Nuffield College.
7:00: Dinner in Nuffield College.
Saturday 16 September
9:00: Coffee in the Chester room annex
9:15 - 10:45: Comparative Practices
Money and politics in European political systems
Will Jennings, Southampton
Nicholas Carnes, Duke
Andy Eggers, Oxord
Jane Green, Manchester.
10:45 - 11:15: Coffee
11:15 - 12:30: So what? Money and Politics
Chair: George C Edwards III, Texas A&M/Oxford
Does money matter?
Funding referenda to bypass normal (legislative) democratic politics
Andy Eggers, Oxford
Fred Harris, Columbia
Richard Johnson, Lancaster
Desmond King, Oxford