Better Parties, Better Government: A Realistic Program for Campaign Finance Reform

Author: Peter Wallison and Joel Gora

The first time I read “Better Parties, Better Government” by Peter Wallison and Joel Gora, I walked away thinking that they were totally off base in their approach to campaign finance reform.   However, recently, while doing some research for my None Of The Above television show, I dusted it off and found myself  surprisingly intrigued with the theories presented therein.

I have long felt that energies directed to campaign finance reform are a waste of time.  The money is fairly balanced between Republicans and Democrats, even if the distributions are skewed between Federal v. state, state v. state and US House v US Senate.  So, let them kill each other.  And, at the end of the day, almost every reform effort is a disguised attempt to protect incumbents.  Finally, let’s face it, the Supreme Court is not doing us any favors by bending over backwards to protect the First Amendment.

But, given the Supreme Court’s latest decisions and the lack of transparency accompanying SuperPACs et al, something has to be done.

Better Parties, Better Government focuses on rebalancing the system regardless of the extremes for raising money.  It suggests that the limitations placed on parties, particularly with respect to hard v. soft money, has enhanced opportunities for incumbency protection.  I have come to agree.

Like many books on campaign finance reform, it does a very good job of presenting the problem and documenting how we got here.  It predates some of the recent court decisions, but that is not particularly relevant to their theories or analysis.   The book also does a nice job of dissecting some of the mainstream theories to address campaign finance reform.

The problem with Better Parties, Better Government is that its solution requires legislative action.  How to make that happen is the ultimate conundrum.

Notwithstanding, if you are looking for a fresh approach and some entertaining out of the box thinking, this is a great place to start.


This book brilliantly shows how and why campaign finance laws, while claiming to eliminate corruption and enhance fair elections, instead did little more than protect incumbents against electoral challenges. Whether the authors’ creative proposals work remains to be seen. But this book changes the paradigm of thinking on this issue, and is now the ultimate source for anyone who cares about how a democracy should workIra Glasser, Former Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union

Today’s campaign finance system, by preventing parties from financing their candidates, unfairly protects the interests of incumbents. Wallison and Gora clearly showcase how the American political process can refocus on satisfying the needs of its citizens simply by returning authority to the political parties. Better Parties, Better Government points to the one campaign finance reform that can actually bring reform to American politics.Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

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