The Day After Reform

Sobering Campaign Finance Lessons from the American States

By Michael J. Malbin & Thomas L. Gais

Subjects: American Government
Imprint: Distribution Partners
Hardcover : 9780914341567, 194 pages, November 1997

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Table of contents

Richard P. Nathan, Director,
The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government


1. Introduction

2. Laws and Agencies

The Scope (and Limit) of Reform: A Brief Federal Detour
State Laws: The Early Wave
Changes in State Laws Since 1980
Administering the Laws: Agency Resources

3. Turning Laws Into Tasks: The Assumptions Underlying Disclosure

Agency Tasks
Agency's Work Is Never Done
After the Agency--Then What?

4. Public Funding: Themes and Variations

Public Funding Themes
Which Candidates Participate?
Public Support for Funding Trends Downward
Political Support for Funding: The Need for Consensus

5. Slipping and Sliding: How Interest Groups Have Adapted to Regulation

Tactical Responses: Getting Around the Law
Unequal Effects
The Effects of Increased Complexity

6. The Limits of Party Limits


7. What Helps Competition?

Public Financing: Good, At Most, for a Start
What Really Helps Challengers: It's the Money, No Matter From Where
The Party's the Key
Turnign the Tables

8. If the Standard Cures Fail, What Can One Do?

Accountability, Disclosure, and Limits
Encouraging Competition, Debate, and Participation
Concluding Thoughts


Utilizing surveys, reports, and interviews, looks at the states to see how campaign finance reforms have worked out in fact, after organizations have had a chance to adapt to them.


For more than twenty-five years, campaign finance reform has been based on assumptions that no longer match the realities of modern campaigning. Despite this, many of the supposedly new proposals on the national agenda continue to be based on the old set of assumptions and to produce stalemate.

However, even while Congress has deadlocked, more than half of the states have revised their laws on campaign finance. Some of these are now being promoted actively as models to be emulated. Michael J. Malbin and Thomas L. Gais look at the states to see how campaign finance reforms have actually worked out—what has happened after candidates, political parties, and interest groups have had a chance to adapt to them.

This book is based on a fifty-state survey of campaign finance laws and their administering agencies, analyses of reports from the states that release candidate-level data, and extensive open-ended interviews with political leaders in half a dozen jurisdictions with among the most ambitious regulatory frameworks. It concludes with recommendations based on realistic assumptions set in a package that is designed to remain workable over the long haul.

Michael J. Malbin is Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY, and Director of Legislative and Political Studies at the Rockefeller Institute of Government. As this book was being finished, he was also a Guest Scholar at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Thomas L. Gais is Director of the Federalism Research Group at the Rockefeller Institute of Government.


"The Day After Reform is a superb piece of work. The book makes its contributions in three distinct, though interrelated areas. First, it contains a careful compilation of data on state campaign finance experience. Second, it gives us probing analysis of the all-too-many false starts in public policy on campaign finance at the national and state level. Third, the authors offer a series of sound, carefully thought-out prescriptions about how to improve things." — Everett Carll Ladd, Executive Director, Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, University of Connecticut

"This is a splendid book—thorough, sound, and enormously valuable to anyone interested in campaign finance reform. To my knowledge, there is nothing to equal this analysis at the state level." — Alan Rosenthal, Professor of Political Science, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University

"The Day After Reform is at the cutting edge of the growing body of work on state campaign finance reforms. It surpasses all the current literature in this area by showing what happens after reforms are adopted and by highlighting the lessons that can be learned at the federal level from the recent experience in the states. It should be required reading for legislators, election officials, campaign finance activists, and all students of political finance." — Anthony Corrado, Associate Professor of Political Science, Colby College