Campaign Finance and Electoral Reform: A Feminist Economics Perspective
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AbstractIn "Campaign Finance and Electoral Reform: A Feminist Economics Perspective," we begin by examining the impact of the current regime of campaign finance on the American political system, in terms of the possibilities for corruption, for inegalitarian agenda-setting, and on the quality of representation by officeholders. We then briefly review attempts to regulate this system, from the Tillman Act of 1907 to the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act ("McCain-Feingold"). We examine and critique the extant proposals for change, including legislation and/or regulation to "plug the holes" in FECA (the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971), public financing of all federal campaigns (through either lump-sum payments or "voter vouchers"), and the deregulation of all campaign contributions, combined with immediate reporting of the same. Next, using the work of feminist economist Amartya Sen, we examine the proposals for reform through the lens of feminist economics, critiquing the neoclassically based assumption of individualistic political decision-making on which they are built. We examine the reasons for the decline of "dialogic sites," institutions and venues where ordinary Americans can debate politics, form coherent political world-views, and pressure candidates and elected officials. Finally, using both the tools of modem communications technology and lessons from the civil rights and feminist movements, we present a tentative list of proposals for reform and democratic renewal of the American political system.