Fordham University Law Professor Zephyr Teachout earned a place of distinction among anticorruption activists for making the fight against corruption the centerpiece of her spirited campaign to oust the incumbent in New York’s September 9 gubernatorial primary (as well as a good deal of attention on this blog, click here and here). Her effort also deserves special recognition in academia: surely no other professor has produced evidence to undercut her own academic work so fast as Professor Teachout. Appearing days before the primary, her Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin to Citizens United contends that large private donations to political candidates so favor candidates supported by the wealthy that the future of American democracy is at risk. Yet while preliminary figures suggest the well-known, well-organized incumbent outspent her by somewhere between 40 to 50 to 1, she did surprisingly well, polling 180,336 votes to the incumbent’s 327,150. If money so dominates American political campaigns, it is hard to see why Professor Teachout got so far with so little.
Of course, she did lose the election. More to the point, even if she had won, her claim that money is overwhelming American elections cannot be dis-proven by a single example. It may be that her race was an outlier and that most of the time, money does talk. So what does the accumulated research on the influence of money on American elections show? Continue reading