Ohio Report Looks at the Inside Influence of Soft Money in Politics
PHOTO: Ohio State researchers investigated the real world impact outside spending is having on elections and politics. Photo credit: Jane M. Sawyer / Morguefile.
June 19, 2014
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A report out of Ohio finds the political landscape of the country has changed since Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared campaign spending as a form of free speech.
Researchers from The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law interviewed campaign insiders about the practices involving unregulated donations, or soft money.
Professor Dan Tokaji says most agreed it is impacting politics, with many candidates feeling they have to toe the line of certain interest groups.
"We find some evidence that it's increasing polarization, at least that's the some perception of some people,” he says. “As one of our interviewees put it, 'No one's paying you millions of dollars for a good compromise.'"
While no current members of Congress were willing to speak on the record, the research includes interviews with nine former members of Congress, three defeated candidates, congressional aides and other campaign staff members.
Graduate research fellow Renata Strause says the research indicates there is a fear factor in play when it comes to the decisions incumbents make.
"Our report shows that they see a lot of these groups as threats to their re-election and that has an impact on the way they think about legislation, the way they think about their job of governing and the way that they conduct their campaigns," she explains.
Coordination between campaigns and organizations is legally banned, but Tokaji says the research showed the ways it's being carefully sidestepped.
"We didn't find evidence of illegal coordination, but we did find a high degree of cooperation,” he points out. “There are lots of ways that outside groups and candidates signal to one another without breaching the legal line."
The report cited several examples of signals used, including using b-roll footage or targeted talking points on a hidden link on the campaigns' website or putting out a press release the campaign does not expect to be picked up by the media.