The Economic Realities of Political Reform: Elections and the US Senate

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A central political issue in American politics during the 1990s is the need for political campaign reform. The authors examine US Senate elections to determine the role money plays in Senate elections; their analysis indicates that the system of campaign finance resembles a market, with legislators as the recipients of financial largesse based on their institutional positions and political vulnerability. This rent-seeking relationship between economic interests and legislators has transformed the dynamic of Senate elections. The authors assess the potential impact of several electoral reform proposals. Spending limits and public funding proposals, they argue, will not have the impact expected by reform advocates. Term limit and public funding proposals would disrupt the rent-seeking relationship between legislators and economic interests. These proposals also face political and constitutional barriers to implementation.