Cover image for Dollars and votes : how business campaign contributions subvert democracy
Dollars and votes : how business campaign contributions subvert democracy
Clawson, Dan.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Philadelphia, Penn : Temple University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xii, 271 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1350 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
JK467 .C52 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Recent scandals, including questionable fun-raising tactics by the current administration, have brought campaign finance reform into the forefront of the news and the public consciousness. Dollars and Votes goes beyond the partial, often misleading, news stories and official records to explain how our campaign system operates. The authors conducted thorough interviews with corporate "government relations" officials about what they do and why they do it. The results provide some of the most damning evidence imaginable. What donors, especially business donors, expect for their money is "access" and access means a lot more than a chance to meet and talk. They count on secret behind-the-scenes deals, like a tax provision that applies only to a "corporation incorporated on June 13, 1917, which has its principal place of business in Bartlesville, Oklahoma." After a deal is worked out behind closed doors, one executive explains, "it doesn't much matter how people vote afterwards." Ordinary contributions give access to Congress; megabuck "soft money" contributions ensure access to the President and top leaders. The striking truth revealed by these authors is that half the soft money comes from fewer than five hundred big donors, and that most contributions come, directly or indirectly, from business. Reform is possible, they argue, by turning away from the temptation of looking at specific scandals and developing a new system that removes the influence of big money campaign contributors.

Author Notes

Dan Clawson, Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is the author of Bureaucracy and the Labor Process and past editor of Contemporary Sociology .

Alan Neustadtl, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, is the co-author (with Dan Clawson and Denise Scott) of Money Talks: Corporate PACs and Political Influence .

Mark Weller teaches sociology at San Jose State.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The subtitle makes clear the thesis. Dollars and Votes, written by sociologists, fits the stereotype that sociologists are more likely than political scientists to stress business dominance. It is unfortunate that the book makes little direct use of recent scholarship by political scientists on campaign finance (even to refute them). The authors are guilty of an occasional exaggeration or oversimplification (e.g., their claims that democracy is something "unions have," and that campaign finance is less regulated now than ever before). Despite these flaws, this volume is valuable for its use of extensive interviews with corporate PAC leaders. These interviews, along with some statistical data, help draw a rich picture of the expectations and subtle exchange (not explicit bribery, they stress) involved in campaign finance. The authors do not assume that businesses simply dominate politics without effort, and they discuss well the different strategies of giving, such as a pragmatic "access" approach versus an ideological focus on defeating hostile members of Congress. Ultimately, the book builds to predictable, but well-argued, conclusions on recent scandals and possible reforms. The authors advocate public financing and counter other views on reform thoroughly. All levels. J. Heyrman; Berea College

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
1 Follow the Moneyp. 1
2 Gifts Networks of Obligationp. 29
3 Access Loopholes as a Systemp. 63
4 Soft Money and the Pay-Per-View Presidencyp. 107
5 Ideology and Political Shiftsp. 139
6 Pacs Running in Packsp. 167
7 Scandal or System?p. 197
Notesp. 235
Indexp. 259