Chapter 1:
An Introduction to Public Financing:

A Brief History of Public Financing

An Academic Background From Which to Study Public Financing Adoption

Distinguishing Between Varieties of Public Financing

A Brief Outline of the Rest of the Study

Chapter 2:
Factors Affecting the Adoption of Public Financing
Chapter 3:
The Story of Public Financing in the States
Chapter 4:
Conclusions and Predictions Stemming from this Study
Addendum 1:
A Comprehensive Database of State Public Financing Systems
Addendum 2:
Interview Questions Used in the Public Financing Survey
Chapter 1:
An Introduction to Public Financing

The election process lies at the very heart of republican democracy.  As such, election reform has been a consistent theme of the last one hundred years of American political dialogue. Early reforms, such as the introduction of the Australian ballot, were followed by experiments with direct primaries, non-partisan elections, and regulation of campaign finances through the Corrupt Practices Act of 1925 and the Hatch Act of 1940.[1] 

Arguably the most fundamental change in the administration of American elections has been the institution of government financing of many election campaigns.  Public campaign financing is distinct from other campaign reforms because it substitutes an alternative funding mechanism for political campaigns rather than seeking to regulate the two existing mechanisms; fundraising and candidate personal financing.  Despite the attention devoted to campaign finance reform efforts on the federal level, it is in American states, over half of which employ some form of public financing, where sufficient diversity exists to make conclusions concerning the origins of public financing systems.

Limited studies have been conducted assessing the effect of specific state public financing measures.  However, there are no comprehensive nation-wide surveys of the origins of the state systems.  This study seeks to profile how American states came to focus on campaign reforms, and explain why individual states chose to implement specific forms of public financing when they did.


A Brief History of Public Financing

National and International Public Financing

Democratic Representative William Bourke Cockran of New York introduced the first proposal for public financing of elections in the United States in 1904, in response to controversy surrounding President Theodore Roosevelt’s extensive fundraising in the heated election campaign of that year.[2] Fueled by revelations of large corporate donations to both political parties, pressure continued to build through 1907, at which time President Roosevelt endorsed public financing for party organizations.[3]  However, after much negotiation, the Tillman Act, banning contributions by corporations to political candidates, passed as a broad political compromise and diffused the pressure behind public financing proposals. Although significant campaign finance reform measures continued to be considered throughout the succeeding decades, the next significant public financing proposals were not advanced until the 1960’s. Overseas, the first modern public funding of political entities was instituted with the advent of the television age.  Interestingly, Costa Rica in 1954 and Argentina in 1955 were the first modern countries to formally provide public funds for political parties.  European public financing of political parties began in West Germany in 1959, and spread to Austria in 1963.  As the German political scientist Karl-Heinz Nassmacher explains, the “political reasoning [for the early European public financing systems] went along an almost classical line: ‘Parties had found that costs had been increasing, particularly in the field of communications, and existing sources of income were proving to be insufficient.’”[4]  In specific instances, such as that of Italy in 1974, public financing adoption was facilitated by corruption scandals resulting from this increased fundraising pressure.[5] The pressures for public subsidies of political parties continued to build during the 1960’s.  By 1970 France, Israel, and all four Scandinavian countries introduced public financing of political parties.

Table 1.1: Countries with National Public Financing as of 1988[6]

Effective Date


Effective Date



Costa Rica


The Netherlands






West Germany










The United States
























As in Europe, it is likely that the re-consideration of public financing by American policy makers was a reaction to the rising cost of televised campaigns and the resulting increased pressure on the political fundraising system.  The percentage of American households with television sets soared from 9% to 87% between 1950 and 1960, and for the first time in the 1960 election, more Americans received their political news from television than newspapers.[7]

The earliest post war American proposals for public financing did in fact draw heavily from the overseas party-funding model.  In 1962, President Kennedy’s Commission on Campaign Costs, charged with examining political campaigns in the new television age, proposed public matching funds in presidential campaigns.  In 1966, in response to frenzied fundraising by the Johnson Administration, Congress passed into law but swiftly repealed a measure providing block grants to political parties for campaign use.[8] 

However, American policy makers soon realized that the structure of the American political system required distinctive policy approaches.  With the exception of the minimal systems of Latin America, the international public financing provisions implemented before 1974 existed in a parliamentary context where party-based electoral structures and unpredictable election cycles meant that political financing was inevitably synonymous with party financing.[9]  By contrast, the institutionalized election cycle and candidate-centered nature of the American federal system meant that problems of political money were more likely to occur in the campaign financing of specific candidates directly before the election.  Such a system initially presented serious hurdles, as parties tend to be more standardized and predictable than individual candidates.

However, campaign costs were rapidly rising on both sides of the Atlantic. The cost of presidential elections more than doubled between 1968 and 1972, from $37 million to over $90 million dollars.[10]  Inspired by the fundraising scandals in Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign uncovered by the Watergate investigations, in 1974 Congress significantly amended the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) to include an innovative system of matching public funds for presidential primaries and full public financing of presidential general elections.[11] In 1976, public money was used to fund a U.S. presidential election for the first time.[12]  No significant federal campaign public financing measures have been seriously considered since the last revision of FECA in 1979.

Public Financing in the States

Largely lost in the attention paid to national campaign reforms, a simultaneous and far more comprehensive public financing revolution was beginning on the state and local level.  In 1957 Puerto Rico implemented the first public financing within the jurisdiction of the United States in the wake of the Costa Rican and Argentinean reforms.  The Puerto Rican Election Fund Act, which provided significant block grants to the island’s two major political parties, was designed to reduce the dependence of the territory’s political parties on the powerful sugar industry and end the informal practice of requiring civil servants to contribute 2% of their income to the ruling political party.[13]  Internationally, twenty German and Austrian laender and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia had instituted public financing of local elections by the 1980’s.[14]  However, there are no indications that public financing in American states was directly modeled on any of the local overseas measures.

In 1973 four states, Iowa, Maine, Rhode Island, and Utah, enacted the first public financing in the United States.  The movement continued as the Watergate scandal heated up, with five more states passing public financing measures in 1974, three in both 1975 and 1976, two in 1977, and one in 1978.[15]  In 1979, Seattle, Washington implemented the first municipal public campaign finance system.[16]  State public financing of elections hit something of a plateau in the 1980’s, with only six states and two municipalities implementing systems over the course of the decade.[17]  In the early 1990’s a number of states which had implemented the most comprehensive measures during the 1970’s reformed and expanded their systems.[18]  The adoption of full public financing measures in Maine in 1996 and Vermont in 1997, heralded in a subsequent reform movement dubbed Clean Elections, which eventually spread to Arizona, Massachusetts, and the municipalities of Austin, Boulder, Cincinnati, Oakland, and San Francisco.

Between 1972 and 2001 fourteen local governments and twenty-seven state governments instituted public financing for at least some of the political offices or parties under their jurisdiction:

Table 1.2: State Public Financing as of 2001

Date of Adoption

(Significant Reform)


Date of Adoption

(Significant Reform)






1973 (1996)


1977 (Ended 1988)


1973 (1988, 1992)

Rhode Island











1974 (1993)




1974 (Ended 1979)






1985 (1991)


1974 (1989)

New Jersey





1988 (1998)


1975 (1998)





North Carolina


New Mexico

1976 (1992)




1976 (1989)



Table 1.3: Local Public Financing as of 2001[19]

Date of Adoption

(Significant Reform)


Date of Adoption

(Significant Reform)


1978 (Ended 1992)

Seattle, WA


Austin, TX


Tucson, AZ


Suffolk County, NY

1986 (Ended 1990)

Sacramento County, CA


Oakland, CA


New York City, NY


Petaluma, CA

1989 (Ended 1992)

King County, WA


San Francisco, CA


Los Angeles, CA


Boulder, CO


Long Beach, CA


Cincinnati, OH


An Academic Background From Which to Study Public Financing Adoption

Kingdon’s Model of Agenda Generation

John W. Kingdon’s 1984 book Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies has become a seminal work discussing the nature of problem awareness, issue definition, and agenda setting.[20]  Kingdon uses case studies in two national issue areas, health and transportation policy, to explore how specific topics came to dominate policy agendas.  Kingdon argues that three process streams largely determined of the federal agenda: problem identification, policy generation, and political shifts.  According to Kingdon’s rationale, these three streams exist independently of each other but are periodically coupled around successful policy initiatives. 

According to Kingdon’s theory, the problem and political streams elevate broad issue areas to the national consciousness and are largely dominated by visible clusters of governmental actors such as elected officials and political appointees.  In contrast, specific policy alternatives are usually generated by hidden clusters of policy entrepreneurs, including career bureaucrats, interest groups, and other elements of civil society.  Significantly, these policies are often developed based on policy entrepreneurs’ personal or institutional interests, desire to promote values, or wish to affect the system and arise independently from the problem or politics streams. 

To summarize, Kingdon’s hypothesis argues that the problem and political streams periodically create windows of policy opportunity by focusing the attention of government actors on specific issue areas.  Into these windows rush policy entrepreneurs trying to link their pre-existing policies into the specific issues on the agenda. 

A recent example might help to illustrate Kingdon’s theory.  Following the September 11th terrorist attacks and the subsequent war on terror, American dependence on Middle Eastern energy suppliers became an important concern for American policy-makers.[21] Consequently, numerous bureaucrats, interest groups, and academics stepped into this breach pushing policies ranging from heightened hydrogen fuel cell development,[22] to increased ethanol production,[23] to greater cooperation with the Russian government.[24] Most of these policy entrepreneurs had developed these proposals far before the focusing events of September 2001.  However, in the aftermath of 9/11, many of these constituencies attempted to tie their policy proposals into the policy window created by the problem of the attacks. 

Windows of opportunity are brief due to the short attention span of politicians, the media, and the public.  Therefore, as Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones assert in Agendas and Instability in American Politics, the evolution of American government policy is typified by a state of punctuated equilibrium, where the traditional policy monopolies of interlocking alliances of elites are periodically altered by the spotlight of specific problems.[25]

In this study, I turn Kingdon’s work around, by using his theories as a starting place for exploring how a particular issue area, reform of the campaign finance system, reached the public agenda of specific states. There are two significant ways in which state campaign finance reform legislation provides an interesting test of Kingdon’s theory.  More than any other issue, campaign finance directly affects the status of elected officials within the government, and thus combines the problem and politics streams to a greater degree than other issue areas.  The second challenge of this study lies in my focus on the state rather than the national political arena.  States provide an interesting test of Kingdon’s conclusions, both because of their varied political culture and because of their distinctive mechanisms of governance. 

The relevance of Kingdon’s ideas may change when they are used to explain how a single distinctive issue reached the agendas of the political classes in a geographically and culturally distinct group of states rather than a single national political bureaucracy.  Furthermore, state government mechanisms, including peculiarities of interest group interaction and the frequent use of ballot measures, may change the relative balance of power between specific groups and constituencies in the agenda setting and alternative specification roles.

Kingdon restricts his analysis to the agenda setting and alternative specification aspects of policy determination, while leaving the factors influencing the choice of a specific alternative and the implementation of this choice unaddressed.  However, when examining a precise policy outcome, it is necessary to assess the decision-making element of policy formation.  Over two-thirds of states have enacted at least one major new campaign finance law in the last thirty years.[26]  However, only a small percentage of these laws contain public financing. Thus, in addition to explaining how state political actors come to perceive a problem with their democratic process, one must also clarify why, and in what cases, a consensus is generated around the specific policy of public financing of elections.

Nice’s Study of State Innovation

David Nice presents the only significant previous inquiry into the reasons for the adoption of public financing as a chapter in Policy Innovation in State Government.[27]  Nice argues that three main factors influence the adoption of specific policy innovations: problems, resources, and (what I will call) civic culture.  Nice’s first two factors are mainly negative.  As Kingdon acknowledges, the nature of the specific challenge inspiring action necessarily eliminates those policy alternatives which are unlikely to solve the given problem.  The resources available to government actors, often in the form of budgets or constitutional powers, further limit the range of existing choices.  Nice places the most emphasis on his third factor, civic culture.  Nice argues that civic culture could play a significant role in determining state policy outcomes, and that culture varies between states. This cultural factor could play both a positive and negative role in the decision-making process between policy alternatives.It is helpful to separate Nice’s third factor into two general categories: political culture and party ideology.  To generalize, political culture revolves around the values of citizens concerning change.  Party ideology could be defined as the attitude of the political classes toward government. 

Nice divides political culture into three broad archetypes loosely based on Daniel Elazar’s seminal 1966 study American Federalism; the traditionalist, the individualist, and moralist archetypes.[28] Nice measures party ideology along the simple scale of Liberal vs. Conservative.  He describes these archetypes in terms of views concerning government action as defined by party platforms and major party policy initiatives.  Conservatives are generally reluctant to use government to institute change, whereas Liberals are generally eager to use government to institute change.  To quantify these values, Nice uses a 1978 study by Eugene McGregor which uses decades of presidential convention role call votes to place the Democratic and Republican Parties in every state on a –1 to 1 scale of liberalism and conservatism.[29]

Nice applies his theories of state innovation to eleven issue areas, including public financing.  Nice analyzes the political cultures and party ideologies of the sixteen states which instituted public financing by August 1981.[30]  He does not specifically address emergent problems or resources available to these states, but theorizes that these may have been important factors.

Nice asserts that public financing is more likely in states that have highly moralistic political cultures.  Furthermore, he concludes public financing is more likely in states that have relatively liberal Republican ideologies and that have experienced Democratic Party dominance during the period of implementation.[31]

Problems with Nice’s Analysis

Nice’s study is incomplete for four major reasons:

1) Nice’s dependence on categorizations of the cultural and ideological identities of states in simple, quantifiable terms can come under significant criticism.

2) Nice’s sample of states with public financing is now over twenty years old.

3) Nice fails to distinguish between distinct methods and systems of public financing, whose effects and origins may vary greatly.

4) Nice’s study does not survey the views of the actual entrepreneurs and decision-makers in the implementation of public financing.  The distinctive nature of campaign finance reform, due to its direct effect on politicians, casts into doubt the applicability of traditional trends of political culture or party ideology when explaining campaign reforms.

Addressing the Flaws in Nice’s Study

Chapter 2 explores many of the difficulties inherent to quantifying political culture.  However, before proceeding further, it may be beneficial to address the means by which this study attempts to rectify the other three problems listed above:

Updating the Sample

The number and variety of public financing measures has greatly increased since Nice’s study.  Since 1981, the number of states employing public financing measures has nearly doubled to twenty-seven, while the number of local measures has more than tripled to fourteen.  A small number of sources contain profiles of state public financing systems, though up to now no single source presents a truly comprehensive and up to date database of all public financing measures in the United States.

The U.S. Federal Election Commission’s National Clearinghouse on Election Administration puts out a periodic summary of state campaign finance laws.[32]  The Council of State Government’s in Lexington, KY also produces two publications, The COGEL Blue Book and The Book of the States, which often present data on state campaign finance laws.  In addition, there have been a small number of academic studies which contain public financing information.  Herbert Alexander, under the auspices of the Citizens’ Research Foundation, produced a study of statewide public financing measures in 1986, which was updated in 1992.[33]  CRF also summarized six public financing systems in local elections in 1999.[34]  Michael Malbin and Thomas Gais compile a profile of state campaign finance laws in The Day After Reform.[35]   In addition, Joel Thompson’s work Campaign Finance in State Legislative Elections contains a limited number of references to public financing systems.[36]

To update these studies, I compiled a comprehensive database of all state and local public financing laws with a brief profile of the distinctive characteristics and origins of each of these measures.  I also contacted election officials, academics, and democracy interest groups in every state and examined the actual laws in question.  A list of the states which have adopted public financing is contained in Table 1.2 above.  The full database profiling every public financing measure is included in Addendum 1.

Malbin and Gais’ analysis of state disclosure regulations and spending limits shows a definite evolution of these reforms.  The earliest state reforms during the 1970’s focused mainly on disclosure requirements and restrictions of atypical behavior such as excessively large campaign contributions or potentially corrupting practices.[37]  However, later reforms “were often designed to alter the more typical flows of private money into politics” through lower contribution limits and extensive reporting requirements.[38]  Many experts account for this shift as a reaction to the increased cost and complexity of campaigns during this period. For example, in the decade between 1980 and 1990, average spending for gubernatorial candidates increased 44 percent after adjusting for inflation.[39]  Simultaneously, the average number of interest groups per state nearly doubled.[40]

An examination of the progression of state and local public financing measures reveals some similar trends.  Sixteen significant state public financing measures were implemented by 1980.  These systems were made up exclusively of partial matching and block grant mechanisms and were usually very limited in scope.  Implementation of reforms continued at a trickle through the 1980’s, perhaps because of resource restraints due to budgetary and anti-tax pressures.  In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, a number of states made attempts to reform and strengthen their existing public financing systems.   In the latter half of the 1990’s a small wave of public financing initiatives created systems in four states and at least four municipalities.  Significantly, these later initiatives created the first non-federal full public financing systems.[41]  In addition, five of these later state and municipal measures were passed by direct democracy ballot initiatives.  For whatever reason, the evolution of public financing legislation seems to indicate increasing distrust of private money in the campaign finance system over the last thirty years.


Distinguishing Between Varieties of Public Financing

What Qualifies as Public Financing

Because of the wide variety of public campaign finance measures, it is problematic to define state financing of elections.  The most important key, or common element, is the dispersal of “public money.”  Thus, a public financing system must disburse money (rather than in-kind contributions of materials or services such as airtime).  Furthermore, this money must pass through the public sphere.  Thus, measures allowing tax deductions or tax credits for contributors (such as in Alaska and a number of other states) are not considered public financing for the purposes of this study, since state governments never actually possess these campaign funds.

Another characteristic common across all public financing systems is their voluntary nature.  In light of Supreme Court decisions equating spending money with free speech, all public financing measures have necessarily been designed to compliment or run parallel to traditional private financing patterns, without inherently replacing them.[42]

Variables within Public Financing

Public financing systems can further entrench or greatly weaken existing parties, politicians, and policies.  The effect of public financing depends the design of specific systems.  In her 1981 article “State Public Campaign Finance: Implications for Partisan Politics,”[43] Ruth Jones outlines a number of public financing policy choices available to lawmakers.  I have expanded on her list to illustrate the varieties of campaign financing systems:

Campaign Fund Collection

Public financing funds can be allocated through direct budget appropriations, specific charges, or taxpayer check-off or add-on mechanisms.  States which provide simple block grants to political parties often use the tax code to allow citizens to direct a prescribed amount to a specific political party, rather than to the system as a whole.  Such systems could aptly be described as institutionalized contribution mechanisms, and are generally designed to achieve very different purposes than impartially disbursed systems.  Presently, seven states allow public funds to be dispersed to partisan entities without regulating the spread or ratio of this allocation.[44]

Recipient of Campaign Funds

Public funds can also be distributed impartially to political parties or directly to candidates themselves.  Some of these systems are consciously crafted to either strengthen parties or to strengthen candidates in the electoral process.  Furthermore, the regulations determining the eligibility of third parties and third party candidates for public funds differ significantly across states.  Third party participation also significantly influences the effect of public financing measures and may often be associated with different conceptions of the political problems to be addressed.  Currently, eight states appropriate money to political parties, while fifteen states appropriate funds directly to candidates, and four states provide money to both.[45]  Barriers to third party entry tend to be significant in most systems, but vary greatly.

Scope of Campaign Fund Allocation

Public financing can range from small block grants to full financing of elections and can be dispersed using a variety of mechanisms.  Nearly all dispersal ranges and mechanisms can be categorized into three types:

Full: Full public financing consists of block grants to candidates with strings attached.  By taking public money candidates agree to forego raising or spending any additional money.[46]  Effective full public financing systems generally appropriate sufficient public money to run a campaign for the given office and usually contain additional matching fund mechanisms for candidates whose non-participating opponents outspend them. 

A truly full public financing system becomes the only significant funding source for participating candidate’s campaigns, and thus is designed to exclude private money from the campaign system.  Currently, four states have full public financing systems for one or more offices.[47]

Partial: Partial public financing generally consists of grants disbursed on a set ratio to participating candidates.  The majority of these partial systems provide matching grants, though some systems use flat grants.  In a one to one matching system, one dollar of public financing is given to a candidate for every dollar of private contributions this candidate raises.  Some systems only match contributions up to a certain amount, thus increasing the importance of smaller donations.  Often this effect is multiplied by additional provisions lowering contribution limits.  Sometimes partial financing includes stipulations requiring certain actions during the campaign, such as participation in debates.  In many cases partial public financing includes overall spending caps for participating candidates.

Most partial public financing measures fund a ratio rather than a set amount of a candidate’s campaign.  Partial public financing systems are designed to augment and reduce, but not eliminate private campaign financing.  Currently, there are ten states with partial funding systems.[48]

Simple Grants: Simple public financing grants disperse a set amount of public money, generally without any strings attached.  Unlike full public financing systems (where grants must be large enough to fund a whole campaign), simple grant systems can disperse relatively insignificant funding amounts.  Unlike full and partial public financing, public grants are almost exclusively appropriated for a party rather than to a specific candidate or election cycle.

Simple public grants commonly do not provide the only significant funding for a candidate or party and generally do not constrain the behavior of participating candidates or parties in any way.  Their main effect is on the distribution ratios of money in the campaign system.  As such, simple grants are designed to increase the amount of money in the system rather than reduce it.  At present, there are eleven states with simple grant systems.[49]

As mentioned above, many public financing systems include responsibilities imposed upon the receipt of public funds.  The nature of these requirements (or the lack thereof) greatly influences political behavior and thus often defines the impact of the system.  Therefore, these conditions can serve as evidence when determining the intentions of the framers of public financing systems.

Elections to be Subsidized

All public financing systems that disburse money directly to candidates allocate funds for the general election.  However, a sub-set of public financing systems allocate funds for primary campaigns as well.  Funding of primaries greatly increases the cost and complexity of public financing measures, but also, assumedly, expands their effect.  Currently eleven state systems fund both primary and general election campaigns while three systems fund only general election campaigns.[50]

Offices to be Subsidized

Public financing measures vary greatly in range of offices covered.  They can include the governor, the lt. governor, other constitutional officers, the state legislature, parties, and local officers.  Public financing systems usually distribute different amounts to candidates for each office (though partial public financing systems often maintain a set ratio across all races).  Currently, five states cover just the governors race, three states cover the governor and some other statewide offices, and seven states cover the governor, statewide offices, and legislative elections.[51]

Program Administration and Enforcement

In designing public financing systems, drafters must decide whether to create a new agency to administer the system or to confer this authority to existing agencies.  In addition, sponsors must determine the enforcement powers to be given to this agency and the degree of discretion the agency will be allowed in administering the program.  Because issues of administration and enforcement are primarily relevant for the implementation phase of policy innovation, they are largely beyond the scope of this study.

Intentions Behind the Implementation of Public Financing

An adequate explanation for the adoption of state public financing measures has never been advanced.  David Nice presents brief but interesting theories concerning the nature of states which implemented public financing. However, his analysis takes for granted the specific reasons that public financing measures may have been implemented, and is now very out of date.  Malbin and Gais advance hypotheses concerning the inspirations of public financing, but their arguments are based largely on speculation.  An examination of the history and variety of state public financing measures indicates the likelihood that their supporters may have been addressing entirely different problems or intending starkly different outcomes.

Any attempt to understand the intentions of the framers of public financing laws must include evidence concerning the process of diffusion of ideas across states.  It is also important to understand the relationship between federal and state agendas concerning campaign finance issues.  Significant numbers of state laws were passed at times of heightened awareness of federal campaign finance problems, such as the 1972 funding scandals.  However, there has not been a comprehensive study concerning the nature of this relationship.

To determine the intentions of the initial decision-makers who chose public financing, I have gone directly to the source.  I drafted a short set of survey questions which I administered mainly via email to individuals (including politicians, academics, and activists) who were active, influential, or closely observant during the passage of public financing measures in their state. 

The pool for these surveys was expanded through a snowball sampling scheme whereby everyone I found gave me further names in addition to answering my questions.   The final tally was sixty-two surveys completed by individuals in twenty-one states.  To gain further information, telephone interviews were conducted with twenty-nine relevant individuals in twelve states.  There were significant drawbacks to this method, since it was inevitably piecemeal.  Only a tiny percentage of individuals contacted returned completed surveys.  Interviews and surveys could not be administered with equal frequency to decision-makers in every state with public financing and a certain handful of states, especially those whose systems were more recently implemented, generated the majority of responses.  However, the wide variety of state measures meant that surveys and interviews were conducted with representatives of most of the major geographic regions and public financing archetypes.  The survey and interview results were further supplemented by additional information available through existing government resources and academic works.  Data and interviews from specific municipalities with public financing measures were used in certain cases to supplement the state data. 


A Brief Outline of the Rest of the Study

Chapter 2 surveys a variety of predictive mechanisms to determine patterns and similarities in state adoption of public financing.  A clear correspondence is found between adoption of partial and full public financing and Democratic Party dominance, as well as high relative levels of liberal political ideology, economic and social development, civic culture, and white ethnic diversity.  In addition, using classifications of state political culture developed by Daniel Elazar, a clear correspondence is confirmed between more moralistic political culture and adoption of partial and full public financing.  The chapter then uses theoretical and empirical data from a variety of authors to construct a general model of state characteristics which may serve to explain adoption of more comprehensive varieties of public financing.   Throughout the chapter, a clear difference is shown between the characteristics of states adopting simple grant party public financing systems and states adopting more comprehensive partial and full public financing systems.

Chapter 3 presents the major findings of the survey and interview study concerning Kingdon’s model of agenda generation.  It explains why election reform rose to the agenda of specific states at specific times and why public financing was considered a viable alternative.  In particular, it highlights the role that scandals and other focusing events in raising election reform to the agenda, and the role that Common Cause and other public interest groups often play in advancing public financing of elections as an attractive policy alternative.  In addition, Chapter 3 outlines patterns in the intentions of the policy entrepreneurs and eventual decision-makers during the window surrounding the implementation of public financing legislation.  Specifically, it highlights the occasional confluence between politicians trying to improve their standing with the public, good government advocates attempting to reduce the cost of campaigns, and progressive activists wanting to increase the influence of less wealthy segments of the population.

Chapter 3 also briefly discusses the agenda generation relationship between states and the federal government and outlines the major players in state agenda determination.  Finally, it confirms Kingdon’s hypotheses and the findings of Chapter 2 by presenting case studies of state processes which eventually resulted in public financing measures.  The case studies include examples of full, partial, and simple grant public financing measures from a wide regional, cultural, and demographic variety of states.  Particular emphasis is placed on states which typify patterns of public financing or break from established norms and expectations. Specific observations and examples from other states and municipalities are integrated into the chapter to round out the analysis.

Chapter 4 recaps the basic determinations of the study and proposes some lessons that should be drawn from these conclusions.  It also places the findings in the larger context of election reform and makes predictions about the future course of public financing policy determination.

Addendum 1 is a database listing and profiling all state public financing measures in the United States.  Readers are urged to refer to this database whenever they have questions about the nature of public financing systems in specific states.

Addendum 2 is the survey questionnaire distributed to individuals connected to the adoption of public financing in their states.


Proceed to Chapter 2:
Factors Affecting the Adoption of Public Financing


[1] Malbin, Michael & Gais, Thomas.  The Day After Reform: Sobering Campaign Finance Lessons from the American States.  The Rockefeller Institute Press.  Albany, NY 1998  p. 8

[2] Corrado, Anthony,  A History of Federal Campaign Finance Law in Luna Christopher Ed. Campaign Finance Reform  H.W. Wilson Co. New York  1998 p. 6

[3] Ibid

[4] Nassmacher, Karl-Heinz  “Structure and Impact of Public Subsidies to Political Parties in Europe:  The Examples of Austria, Italy, Sweden, and West Germany”  in Comparative Political Finance in the 1980’s  Alexander, Herbert Ed.   Cambridge University Press,  Cambridge GB  1989  p. 238

[5] Ciaurro, Gian Franco  “Public Financing of Parties in Italy” in Comparative Political Finance in the 1980’s  Alexander, Herbert Ed.   Cambridge University Press,  Cambridge GB  1989  pp. 153-171

[6] Compiled from Alexander, Herbert “Money and Politics: A Conceptual Framework”  in Comparative Political Finance in the 1980’s  Alexander, Herbert Ed.   Cambridge University Press,  Cambridge GB  1989  p. 14.  Additional information from Wiberg, Matti Ed. The Public Purse and Political Parties: Public Financing of Political Parties in Nordic Countries  The Finnish Political Science Association,   Jyvaskyla, Finland 1991

[7] Stanley, Harold and Richard Niemi eds.  Vital Statistics on American Politics   Congressional Quarterly Press  Washington DC  1988  pp. 45, 57

[8] Corrado, Anthony  “Money and Politics” in Campaign Finance Reform: A Sourcebook Mann, Thomas Ed.  The Brookings Institution, Washington DC 1997 p. 31

[9] Nassmacher, Karl-Heinz  “Structure and Impact of Public Subsidies to Political Parties in Europe:  The Examples of Austria, Italy, Sweden, and West Germany”  in Comparative Political Finance in the 1980’s  Alexander, Herbert Ed.   Cambridge University Press,  Cambridge GB  1989  p. 237

[10] McFarland, Andrew   Common Cause: Lobbying in the Public Interest  Chatham House Publishers  Chatham, NJ 1984  p. 153

[11] Corrado, Anthony,  A History of Federal Campaign Finance Law in Luna Christopher Ed. Campaign Finance Reform  H.W. Wilson Co. New York  1998 p. 13

[12] Jones, Ruth  “State Public Campaign Finance: Implications for Partisan Politics,”  American Journal of Political Science. Vol. 25, No. 2. (May, 1981), pp. 342-361.

[13] Paltiel, Khayyam Zev  “Public Financing Abroad: Contrasts and Effects” in Malbin, Michael ed.  Parties, Interest Groups, and Campaign Finance Laws   American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research  Washington DC 1980

[14] Alexander, Herbert “Money and Politics: A Conceptual Framework”  in Comparative Political Finance in the 1980’s  Alexander, Herbert ed.   Cambridge University Press,  Cambridge GB  1989  p. 15

[15] 1973-IA, ME, RI, UT. 1974-MD, MN, MT, NJ.  1975-ID, MA, NC.  1976-KY, MI, IN.  1977-OR, WI.  1978-HI.  Compiled from original research and Alexander, Herbert  Public Financing of State Elections  Citizens’ Research Foundation, Los Angeles 1992.

[16] The Seattle system was repealed by a state mandate in 1992

[17] 1982-CA, VI.  1983-AL, 1985-FL, 1987-OH, 1988-NH.

[18] 1989-MI, 1991-FL, RI.  1992-KY, MN

[19] Data distilled from interview research and Alexander, Herbert  Public Financing of Local Elections 2nd ed. Citizens’ Research Foundation  Los Angeles 1999

[20] Kingdon, John  Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies.  Harper Collins College Publishers.  New York  1995

[21] Office of Senator Trent Lott, Senate Minority Leader   “The Energy Answer”   11/2/01

[22] Dunn, Seth    “Energy After September 11”   The Wordwatch Institute  10/16/01   

[23] North Dakota Corn Growers Association,   “New Ethanol Plant Development”  12/02/01

[24] Coon, Charli   “National Security Demands More Diverse Energy Supplies”     The Heritage Foundation   9/25/01

[25] Baumgartner, Frank & Jones, Bryan  Agendas and Instability in American Politics.  The University of Chicago Press. 1993   pp. 18-24

[26] Malbin & Gais  p. 13

[27] Nice, David, Policy Innovation in State Government.  Iowa State University Press  Des Moines 1994

[28] Elazar, Daniel. American Federalism, 2nd ed.  New York: Crowell Publishers  (1966) 1972, (1984).  pp. 94-99

[29] McGregor, Eugene.  1978.  “Uncertainty and National Nominating Coalitions.”  Journal of Politics  v. 40:  pp. 1011-1043

[30] Data from The Council of State Governments  The Book of the States The Council of State Governments  Louisville, KY  1982.

[31] Interestingly, in Nice’s analysis Democratic Party ideology did not seem to have a significant effect.  Nice, p. 81

[32] Feigenbaum, Edward.  Campaign Finance Law 2000: A Summary of State Campaign Finance Laws with Quick Reference Charts.  The Federal Election Commission    Washington DC  2000

[33] Alexander, Herbert.  Goss, Eugene.  Schwartz, Jeffrey  Public Financing of State Elections  Citizens’ Research Foundation at USC  Los Angeles, CA  1986, 1992

[34] Alexander, Herbert  Public Financing of Local Elections

Citizens’ Research Foundation at USC Los Angeles, CA  1999

[35] Malbin, Michael & Gais, Thomas.  1998.  The Day After Reform: Sobering Campaign Finance Lessons from the American States.  The Rockefeller Institute Press.  Albany, NY

[36] Thompson, Joel  Campaign Finance in State Legislative Elections   Congressional Quarterly Press  Washington DC  1998

[37] Malbin & Gais  p. 13

[38] Malbin & Gais  p. 16

[39] Malbin & Gais  p. 15

[40] Gray, Virginia & Lowery, David.  1994.   “Reflections on the Study of Interest Groups in the States” in Crotty, William.  Schwartz, Mildred.  Green, John. Eds.  Representing Interests and Interest Group Representation  University Press of America, Lanham, MD  1994  pp. 57-66

[41] The passage of Maine’s full public financing measure in 1996 marked the first successful full public financing initiative in the US since the 1974 Presidential public financing system was adopted.

[42] In particular see Buckley v. Valeo

[43] Jones, Ruth  “State Public Campaign Finance: Implications for Partisan Politics,”  American Journal of Political Science. Vol. 25, No. 2. (May, 1981), pp. 342-361.

[44] Partisan Party Funding: AL, CA, ID, IA, NM, UT, VA.

[45] Party Funding: AL, CA, ID, IA, NM, OH, UT, VA.  Candidate Funding: AZ, FL, HI, MA, MD, ME, MI, NE, NJ, VT, WI.  Both: KY, MN, NC, RI  (More to add in).

[46] Sometimes candidates are allowed to raise a very limited amount of seed money under full public financing systems.

[47] Full Public Financing: AZ, MA, ME, VT

[48] Partial Public Financing: FL, HI, KY, MD, MI, MN, NE, NJ, RI, WI (MN and WI use flat grants)

[49] Simple Grant Public Financing: AL, CA, IA, ID, IN, MT, NC, NM, OH, UT, VA

[50] Primary and General: AZ, FL, HI, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, NJ, VT.  General: NE, RI, WI

[51] Governor: KY, MD, MI, NC, NJ.  Governor and Statewide: FL, RI, VT.  Governor,  Statewide, & Legislative: AZ, HI, MA, ME, MN, NE, WI.


Copyright 2002, 2003 Benjamin J. Wyatt