Time Suck: How the Fundraising Treadmill Diminishes Effective Governance

40 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2017 Last revised: 21 Oct 2018

Date Written: January 8, 2017


There are just not enough hours in the day to get the job done! This type of “time drought” identified by cognitive scientists takes on democratic significance if the person experiencing it is a democratically elected official. Those elected officials may thereby lack the ability to effectively represent the constituents who put them in office. For federal elected officials, one of the causes of the lack of time to craft policy (the job) is caused by political fundraising burdens (the distraction). As one Congressman put it bluntly, campaign fundraising has become an incredible “time suck” for lawmakers.

The election in 2016 was the most expensive federal election to date. The high price tag in 2016 was attributable to Congressional races. Thus my primary focus in this piece will be on the fundraising burdens experienced by incumbent Members of Congress. Participating in the fundraising arms race is rational behavior for most candidates, because typically the candidate with the bigger campaign war chest wins the election. This fundraising treadmill leads to deleterious effects including dependence on lobbyists for fundraising assistance and for policy making, as well as an unhealthy reliance on a small oligarchic subset of American political donors. Without public financing for Congressional candidates, the only way to avoid the burden of fundraising is to be independently wealthy. And yet, the Roberts Supreme Court seems particularly tone deaf to arguments about preserving the ability of a non-wealthy incumbent elected officials to do their official duties under Article I of the Constitution.

Keywords: campaign finance, dialing for dollars, pay to play, corruption, candidate time, federal candidates, Congress, President, fundraising, solicitation, Randall v. Sorrell, Buckley v. Valeo, money in politics

Suggested Citation

Torres-Spelliscy, Ciara, Time Suck: How the Fundraising Treadmill Diminishes Effective Governance (January 8, 2017). Seton Hall Legislative Journal, Vol. 42 (2018), Stetson University College of Law Research Paper No. 2018-1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3083740 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3083740

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy (Contact Author)

Stetson University College of Law ( email )

1401 61st Street South
Gulfport, FL 33707
United States

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