Congressional Parties, Institutional Ambition, and the Financing of Majority Control

Eric S. Heberlig and Bruce A. Larson


With the need for ever increasing sums of money to fuel the ongoing campaign for majority control, both Republicans and Democrats have made large donations to the party and its candidates mandatory for members seeking advancement within party and congressional committee hierarchies. Eric S. Heberlig and Bruce A. Larson analyze this development and discuss its implications for American government and democracy. They address the consequences of selecting congressional leaders on the basis of their fundraising skills rather than their legislative capacity and the extent to which the battle for majority control leads Congress to prioritize short-term electoral gains over long-term governing and problem-solving.

"Heberlig and Larson get it. Money has always been the mother's milk of politics, but never before has the ability to raise cash determined who leads Congress and what the legislature actually does and doesn't do. The authors have written an eye-opening book that will help readers understand why the Congress has become an unproductive swamp of hyper-partisanship."
—Larry J. Sabato, University of Virginia Center for Politics

"Fundraising was always important for party leaders, and for some key committee chairs. But what the authors describe is almost like an evolutionary shift—suddenly the resources needed to prosper and pass along your policy ideas are different than in the past. This is an important story that should be read by all students of Congress and of campaign finance."
—Clyde Wilcox, Georgetown University

"One of the greatest transformations in American politics over the last half-century is the vastly enlarged role of the two major parties in raising and spending money in congressional campaigns. . . . In this excellent book the authors describe and explain various aspects of these trends. This book is a major contribution to the literature on Congress and on elections."
—David W. Rohde, Duke University

Cover photo © David Deng/Veer

Eric S. Heberlig is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Bruce A. Larson is Associate Professor of Political Science at Gettysburg College.

Praise / Awards

  • "Heberlig and Larson make an important contribution to the scholarly literature by providing a new perspective regarding the relationships among campaign finance, political parties, and the operations of the US Congress. ... [T]he research and writing are skillfully done; the authors should be commended for their efforts. Highly recommended." — B. W. Monroe, Choice
  • "Clearly, the findings and conclusions in this book make a contribution to the study of parties in Congress by expanding our knowledge of the different ways parties exert leverage over legislators. However, this information is especially pertinent as scholars come to terms with analyzing a political climate defined by party polarization and deep ideological cleavages." —APSA Legislative Studies Section Newsletter

Look Inside

Classroom Resources

Discussion Questions | Word doc

News, Reviews, Interviews

Op-ed | Real Clear Politics | "A Way Around the Divided House Majority"

Product Details

  • 318 pages.
  • 15 figures, 23 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2012
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02823-8

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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  • U.S. Congress, U.S. House of Representatives, Campaign finance, Fundraising, Money and Politics, Political Parties, Party leaders, Democratic Party, Republican Party, Committee Chairs, Congressional Parties, The Hill Committees, National Republican Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Member contributions, Leaderships PACs