On Topic: Checks and balances


Published: April 2007

New Jersey’s John Corzine famously spent $60 million of his own money when he ran successfully for Senate in 2000. Michael Bloomberg, a year later, devoted $73 million of his personal fortune to his own campaign to become mayor of New York. In 2006, while no particular candidate stood out for egregious self–funding, it cost an average of $646,000 to run for the U.S. Congress, and $3.3 million to run for the Senate. Does this indicate that money and personal wealth have become the dominating factors in American politics?

Probably not, says Jennifer Steen, assistant professor of political science at Boston College, in her book–length study Self–Financed Candidates in Congressional Elections (Michigan, 2006). Money does bring in votes, of course; of the 34 races for Senate in 2006, only one was won by the candidate who spent less than his or her opponent. But many other factors are at work as well and according to Steen, money raised from supporters is nearly always a stronger indicator of good electoral prospects than is money spent out of a candidate’s trust fund or drawn down from a second mortgage.

For this edition of On Topic, Steen is joined by Boston College Professor Marc Landy, a member of the political science faculty and a scholar of the presidency and environmental politics, and Michael Goldman, the CEO of Goldman Associates, who has worked in more than 200 election campaigns for clients including Bill Clinton, Tip O’Neill, Paul Tsongas, and Bill Bradley. Ben Birnbaum, executive producer of @BC, moderated the discussion.

This feature was posted on Thursday, April 19, 2007 and is filed under Audio.
Producer: Paul Dagnello