Author (Your Name)

James Heimbach, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Government Dept.




The cost of winning a seat in the United States Senate has risen dramatically over the last ten years. It has become the norm rather than the exception to spend over $1 million on a campaign. For example, in the 34 Senate races in the 1988 election, 32 campaigns spent over $1 million. Due to the necessity to raise more and more money, candidates have had to turn to alternative sources of campaign funds. Thus, the rise in campaign costs has been accompanied by a rise in the role of the political action committee (PAC). PACs are special interest groups donating money to candidates whom they perceive as being supportive of their particular interests. The number of PACs has mushroomed since 1974.

Despite numerous attempts and a great deal of posturing, the United States Senate failed to pass a comprehensive campaign finance reform bill into law during the 19805. This is not the result of legislators acting in their own individual interests, but rather partisan differences.

Originally I hypothesized that a Senator will vote on campaign legislation based on his or her perceptions on how they would do in the upcoming election. Senators with secure seats may vote in favor of legislation, whereas Senators with vulnerable seats may vote against it. However, a careful analysis of voting data on three different reform bill shows that this is rarely the case. Rather, party lines dominate voting patterns regarding campaign finance. This is due largely to the opposing views that each party has on how to finance and financially conduct campaigns. Republicans believe in unlimited spending and limits for PACs.

Democrats believe in public financing and spending limits. Thus, we have one of a few issues that is almost totally partisan in nature.


United States Senate, Campaign Finance Reform, political action committees, campaign costs

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