FECA: The Demopublicans' Best Friend
So how did the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) work out in practice? Like a dream – if you are a major party candidate who prefers to have the feds pay your bills for you. For the rest of us, if FECA has not quite been a nightmare then it has been an awfully expensive dream that has narrowed our choices and made our politics even blander. FECA was ushered into existence on a red carpet of good publicity and seemingly noble intentions. It was going to return politics to the little guy – as if the “little guy” had ever really been in charge. It was going to democratize the system, to spread out the donor base for candidacies. Yet, irony of ironies, it has failed even in this task. In 1972, the last presidential election before federal financing kicked in, both Richard M. Nixon and George McGovern attracted approximately 600,000 contributors in the general election. By 2000, after a quarter century of the allegedly democratizing federal election campaign law, the total number of contributors for all candidates, primary and general election, totaling more than a dozen, was 774,000. Not only had FECA failed to bring the financing of political campaigns back “to the people,” it had actually shrunken the donor base and further centralized the core group of contributors to presidential campaigns. FECA has coincided with a decline in the number of contributors. It has achieved exactly the opposite of its intent!