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  • Campaign Finance Reform Before 1971

    The story is told that Samuel Gompers, the president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), once approached his friend, Senator Boies Penrose, the Republican boss of Pennsylvania, seeking support for legislation then pending in Congress to abolish child labor. Penrose supposedly replied “But Sam, you know as damn well as I do that I can’t stand for a bill like that. Why those fellows this bill is aimed at—those mill owners—are good for two hundred thousand dollars a year to the party. You can’t afford to monkey with business that friendly.” “Money is the mother’s milk of politics,” and this is as true in the twenty-first century as it was in the nineteenth. Whether a presidential candidate trying to get his message to two-hundred and eighty million people spread out over six million square miles, or a soccer parent running for town supervisor in a metropolitan suburb, a candidate needs money to pay for billboards, posters, mailings, television and radio time, as well as the full-time workers who staff the campaigns. To ignore this truth is to avoid the central issue in campaign finance reform—money is the fuel of political campaigns.