Author (Your Name)

Erik Belenky, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Open Access)


Colby College. Government Dept.


Anthony Corrado


In the area of campaign financing in federal elections, one of the most controversial issues is that of soft money. Soft money refers to those funds raised by the national party organizations for use on various grassroots and party-building activities. but which are not subject to the restraints of federal campaign finance law. Critics contend that these party-building activitie, such as generic television advertising, voter registration and get-out-the vote drives, provide ancillary benefits to federal candidates and should, therefore, be subject to federal contribution and expenditure limits. Critics further argue that because these funds are not subject to federal law and do benefit federal candidates, the national parties raise monies in amounts and from sources, such as corporations and unions, that are prohibited under federal law. Efforts to gain a better understanding of soft money have been hampered by a lack of data, as the national parties were not required to disclose their soft money receipts and transactions until 1991. The purpose of this study is to analyze data recently made available in an attempt to add the import of empirical evidence to the debate over soft money. The nature, size and timing of soft money contributions are investigated and national party soft money disbursements are examined. The findings suggest that any attempts to reform the soft money system must first consider its compensatory benefits. Most prominently, this includes the extent to which soft money has promoted the resurgence of the national party organizations in the context of election politics.


Campaign funds, United States, Election law, United States, Costs, Soft Money