The Ups and Downs of Small and Large Donors

  • June 18, 2007
  • By Michael J. Malbin and Sean A. Cain

This paper by the Campaign Finance Institute is analysis of pre- and post-BCRA contributions to federal parties and candidates, 1999-2006, by the Campaign Finance Institute's Participation Project.

The report concludes that the surge in small contributions to the national political parties has been a notable and positive outgrowth of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. But the vast majority of Americans still do not give anything at all to candidates or parties. The authors are therefore led to wonder about the possibilities for pursuing greater equality by focusing on the role of small donors. Yet the numbers for candidates show that the fundraising balance is not so easy to change.

Looking forward to 2008, the authores expect that large donors, PACs, and bundlers will continue to dominate the financial picture for congressional candidates and for presidential candidates before the early primaries. The initial results about party money have looked promising, as do the early reports about Internet fundraising. Nevertheless, the role of small donors more broadly remains a concern.