A new bipartisan group emerged this week, on a mission “to educate Iowans on the need for meaningful reform to address the issue of money in politics.” Two Democrats, two Republicans, and a no-party voter are co-chairing Iowa Pays the Price. The most prominent co-chair is Brad Anderson, who ran President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign in Iowa and was the Democratic nominee for Iowa Secretary of State in 2014. The Republican co-chairs are Franklin County GOP chair Shawn Dietz, who unsuccessfully challenged State Senator Amanda Ragan in 2014, and David Niffenegger, who directed operations for Sam Clovis’ 2014 state treasurer campaign. After the jump I’ve enclosed the full statement on the Iowa Pays the Price launch and more background on Issue One, the organization behind the Iowa project.
Speaking to Catherine Lucey of the Associated Press, Anderson said,
“I cannot tell you how many doors I knocked on in 2014 where voters said they were so tired of the mudslinging that they were going to sit out the election.”
Communications research going back to the 1980s and 1990s has produced mixed evidence on whether negative campaigning on television discourages Americans from voting. My impression is that current opinion among political scientists tends toward the view that negative ads do not depress turnout. However, I suspect the avalanche in outside spending following the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United may have changed the equation, because the relentless attack ads run on television, radio, and social media for many months (rather than just a few weeks before election day). The Iowa Pays the Price press release notes,
According to an analysis by Maplight, a nonpartisan research organization that reveals money’s influence on politics, a record $111,770,953 in federal campaign spending was spent in Iowa in 2014. This represented a 350% increase in campaign spending when compared to the $31,901,404 in federal campaign spending from the previous 2010 midterm election. In addition, for the first time in Iowa history a majority of the 2014 election spending was by outside groups rather than by candidates’ campaigns.
The largest share of that spending was seeking to influence the election for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat, but substantial outside spending came into play in some of the Congressional districts, especially the IA-03 race between David Young and Staci Appel.
Good resources for hard facts about big money in American politics include Open Secrets, the Sunlight Foundation, the Brennan Center for Justice, and Common Cause.
P.S.- Contra Shane Vander Hart, it’s not “hypocrisy” for a person to raise lots of money for his own election race (which must be a priority for candidates under our current system) and to believe that campaign finance reform would improve our political culture.