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First Page

165

Document Type

Essay

Abstract

Evidence compiled by the Institute over the last decade from all 50 states demonstrates that understanding the role money plays in elections and public policy development, and specifically how campaign-finances are regulated, can improve the representative forms of government in the states. If a state wants more inclusive elections—contested as well as monetarily competitive—then data shows that adjusting contribution limits or funding mechanisms can have a dramatic effect. Offering incentives for donors to participate and for candidates to seek out more small-dollar donors can also have a positive effect on both the number of candidates who run and thenumber of people who donate (and presumably vote). CFI offers one strategy to move the debate in the right direction and the hard data to support its argument.

Evidence also tells us that Montana, compared to many other states, has the underpinnings of a healthy democracy. At its most basic level, the amount of donations needed to run a competitive campaign is relatively low in most districts, so cost is not a huge barrier if someone wants to run for elective office. Small-dollar donors in Montana play a large role in campaigns. And, even with Montana’s low contribution limits, donors who want to give more in donations seldom reach the maximum, indicating the comfort with levels at which campaigns are funded in Montana.

We’ve just begun to document the complex relationships that make up the body politic. In the future, the Institute will look more deeply at the role of lobbyists in elections and the public policy process. It will link lawmakers with legislation they introduce, delve into who drafted and who will benefit from the policy, and correlate that with campaign-donation strategies implemented by the donors. In the end, the Institute’s work will hopefully produce greater accountability.

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Election Law Commons

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