campaign finance, campaign finance reform, presidential


One of the underlying themes in American politics is that the addition of campaign finance laws at the presidential election level will have a negative relationship with amount of influence and money in campaigns and the amount of regulation. In other words, as regulation goes up the amount of money and influence will decrease. However, with the recent 2004 presidential election this concept has surely been shown to be problematic, at least at the outset. The purpose of this thesis is to examine this relationship and to further expand upon the limited knowledge of this sub-field of political science. This thesis will suggest that the intended result of campaign finance reform may not necessarily be realized. Subsequently, we must ask ourselves whether or not campaign finance regulations actually result in the intended consequences. Federal campaign finance laws do not necessarily reduce the amount of money and influence by special interests in presidential elections. In examining presidential campaign finance regulations do higher levels of regulations really have an impact upon the amount of money (influence) collected and spent in a particular campaign? The McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Act of 2002 (officially implemented in 2002), or the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), was a rudimentary attempt to dramatically change the electoral system in terms of money. In fact, this bill was the most comprehensive overhaul of the electoral system in a quarter of a century (at least since the 1970's) and one of the underlying reasons, arguably, for the bill was to limit soft money and interest group contributions to presidential candidates or to the presidential campaigns during a given election cycle. Basically, the attempt was made to limit the "money" in politics and particularly in presidential campaigns. However, as most media outlets have claimed (such as CNN) that money or contributions given by individuals and various organizations and the amount of money spent by each campaign (President Bush and Senator Kerry) in the most recent presidential election of 2004 surpassed that of any previous presidential election cycle. Part of the reasoning for the limitation of soft money in presidential elections is the whimsical "myth" that more money in presidential elections will inevitably lead to more influence of the executive branch by big time donors such as labor unions, business, wealthy persons, and by interest groups to name just a few. In other words, wealthy interests such as those mentioned in the previous sentence, would theoretically have a greater impact on the electoral process than by individuals. This concept is briefly examined. Of course, the data will come from many sources with government resources being the dominant resource. The FEC began collecting campaign finance data since the 1970's and much of the data comes from published data files from the FEC. Additionally, data will be taken from other government resources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S Bureau of Labor statistics. Other data contained within in this will be properly noted.


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Graduation Date





Dolan, Chris


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Degree Program

Political Science








Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)