Small Change

Money, Political Parties, and Campaign Finance Reform
Raymond J. La Raja

A rich analysis of the colorful and contentious history of campaign finance reform


Reformers lament that, with every effort to regulate the sources of campaign funding, candidates creatively circumvent the new legislation. But in fact, political fundraisers don't need to look for loopholes because, as Raymond J. La Raja proves, legislators intentionally design regulations to gain advantage over their partisan rivals.

La Raja traces the history of the U.S. campaign finance system from the late nineteenth century through the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002. Then, using the 2004 presidential election as a case study, he compares the ways in which Democrats and Republicans adapted their national fund-raising and campaigning strategies to satisfy BCRA regulations. Drawing upon this wealth of historical and recent evidence, he concludes with recommendations for reforming campaign finance in ways that promote fair competition among candidates and guarantee their accountability to voters.

Small Change offers an engaging account of campaign finance reforms' contradictory history; it is a must-read for anyone concerned about influence of money on democratic elections.

Raymond J. La Raja is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Praise / Awards

  • "La Raja avoids reformist rhetoric and skillfully analyzes the consequences of campaign finance reform for the political parties."
    —Sandy Maisel, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government, Colby College

  • "The most thorough and up-to-date account of the historical evolution of campaign finance regulation in the United States available."
    —Gary Jacobson, Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego

  • "Ray La Raja gives us a superior investigation of campaign finance regulations and how they have affected the American political parties."
    —Robert Mutch, Historian, Author of Campaigns, Congress, and Courts: The Making of Federal Campaign Finance Law

  • "Ray La Raja has launched with his new book a major reconsideration of the terms in which campaign finance regulation is understood. In place of the debate we have had for years, now stale and unproductive, he asks for a realistic appraisal of the interests served by regulation and its costs—including an original view of the competing interests of different factions even within parties. His account is particularly compelling in showing the adverse effects of the current regulatory scheme on political parties overall, and he takes the responsible course of matching his analysis to fresh policy recommendations. His book will be read widely, and it will make a difference."
    —Robert Bauer, Chair of the Political Law Group of Perkins Coie LLP

  • "Sen. Barack Obama's groundbreaking decision to reject public financing was widely criticized by good government groups and reform-minded lawmakers in both parties. However, Small Change: Money, Political Parties, and Campaign Finance Reform, predicted this would be a direct result of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law—the same law supported by most of those now blasting Obama's decision...Ultimately, La Raja favors a series of reforms that strengthen the political parties, including higher contribution limits to the national parties and allowing greater party coordinated spending. These proposals acknowledge that past reforms efforts to limit campaign money were doomed to fail and that no one should be surprised of the campaign finance system that resulted. It's an interesting book, very timely and highly recommended."
    —Taegen Goddard, Political Wire

  • "This book is a substantial contribution to the literature on campaign finance reform."

Look Inside

Copyright © 2008, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 304 pages.
  • 15 tables, 14 charts.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2010
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02476-6

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  • Law, Political Science, American Politics, Political Reform, Campaigns and Elections, Campaign Finance and Ethics, Political Strategy, Presidential Elections