Finally, evidence shows that outside groups tend to runmore negative ads than candidates themselves,potentially locking the candidates into positions that aredi
cult to step back from. Is this money making partypositions more intractable, and thus exacerbating thestructural polarization of politics?
DO BROADCAST ADS MATTER AS MUCHAS THEY USED TO?
Radio and television advertising is still by far the largestcost in campaigns above the local level, and ads remainthe only way to reach voters who aren't ﬁrmlycommi
ed and who don't seek out political informationin newspapers or online. Reform e
orts, such as the“electioneering communications” provisions of BCRAthat were at issue in
, have focusedprimarily on broadcast media – not only by bringing adsintended to inﬂuence the election into the regulatedzone, but also by ensuring a
ordable or free time forcandidates.As the share of the voting electorate that is genuinelywavering shrinks to an estimated 3 to 5 percent,especially for high-proﬁle races such as the presidency,the emphasis shi
s to turnout and mobilization of thebase (or pu
ing obstacles, such as voter ID laws, in theway of turnout). The more consequential outside money,then, may involve not the be
er-known SuperPACs, butgroups involved in turnout and mobilization, or indiscouraging voting, such as the group called True theVote.
HAVE CORPORATIONS CHANGED THEIRBEHAVIOR?
scenario in which largecorporations pour millions into e
orts to unseat somepoliticians and boost others has not come to pass. Witha few exceptions, and granted that we have limitedinformation on many spending vehicles, corporationsand especially publicly held corporations have not beenthe main contributors to SuperPACs. But havecorporations changed their behavior in other ways,perhaps more in response to the sense that “anythinggoes” rather than the speciﬁc legal changes broughtabout by
? For example, have they used501c(4) vehicles to move more partisan funding, whilekeeping the veneer of bipartisanship in their disclosedfunding? Have they increased their communications withtheir own employees about politics, such as throughinternal websites – a trend that began in 2008?
ARE THERE DOWNSIDES TO SUPERPACSAND OTHER OUTSIDE-MONEY VEHICLES?
In the recent past, there were signiﬁcant reasons forcampaigns to prefer to avoid moving money throughoutside organizations, since it meant giving up aconsiderable amount of control of their message. Butwith the de facto disappearance of rules aboutcoordination between campaigns and outsidecommi
ees (many SuperPACs are dedicated not to acause but to a candidate, and are controlled by longtimesta
ers to the candidate), there is no longer muchreason for candidates to avoid SuperPACs or otheroutside vehicles.But two downsides remain: Broadcast stations are freeto reject ads by outside groups that they consider falseor misleading, and, more importantly, outside groups donot receive the “lowest unit rate” guarantee. A recentProPublica report indicated that this second factor hadall but wiped out the Romney campaign's earlyfundraising advantage over President Obama'scampaign: Because more of Romney's ad buys werethrough outside groups, they were paying six times morefor the same advertising time.
DO SMALL DONORS STILL MATTER?
Beginning in 2004, and partly facilitated by the Internet,small donors became a more signiﬁcant force in politicalcampaigns, and campaigns put more e
ort into seekingsmall donors. This made small-donor reforms, which relyless on limits and more on incentives for smallcontributions, a
ractive to many observers, notably thefour political scientists who authored the paper, “Reformin the Age of Networked Campaigns” in 2010; lawprofessor Spencer Overton in his recent article, “TheParticipation Interest”; and the congressional authors ofthe recently introduced Empowering Citizens Act.These reforms would use tax credits, matching funds,and other incentives, based on successful programs suchas New York City's matching system, to motivate smalldonors to give and encourage campaigns to go a
erthem. Designed well, such as in Minnesota's system of aninstantly refundable tax credit (now defunded,unfortunately), they can be, in e
ect, a voucher systemin which every citizen will have the ability to make asmall contribution and those contributions will ma
er.Recent evidence from the Campaign Finance Institutesuggests that even in an era of very big money, smalldonors do still ma
er – at least to the Obama campaign,which continued to get 34 percent of its support from
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