Campaign Finance

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on elections every even year in the United States of America. While candidates in presidential elections tend to spend roughly the same amount of money on their campaigns, there are sometimes huge disparities between congressional candidates. In general, incumbents raise money much more easily than challengers.

In 1998, House and Senate incumbents raised and spent more than $470 million on their campaigns compared to only the $134 million spent by challengers. The nearly four to one spending advantage of incumbents over challengers is facilitated in large part by a huge advantage in raising money from political action committees (PACs), the divisions of interest groups that are legally registered and authorized to donate money to candidates for federal office. In 1998, incumbents raised nearly ten times as much as challengers from PACs, or about 85% of all PAC money that was donated.

Historical Documents

Supreme Court Decisions
Buckley v. Valeo 1976

Reasearch and Study Helps

What is "soft money"?

Why are sitting members of Congress almost always reelected?

What is the Federal Reserve and what does it do?

Headlines & Editorials

Washington Post Special Report on Campaign Finance

Campaign Financing on the Web

Federal Election Commission