Top Scholars Say Shays-Meehan Legislation Will Benefit Political Parties, Strengthen Grassroots Activities

July 10, 2001

For Immediate Release

July 10, 2001

Contact Information:

Scott Schell, 212 998-6318

Amanda Cooper, 212 998-6736

Top Scholars Say Shays-Meehan Legislation Will Benefit Political Parties, Strenghten Grassroots Activities

Letter by 17 top political scientists states: “[T]here is substantial reason to believe that political parties will be strengthened” by pending reforms.

As the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to begin floor debate on campaign finance reform legislation, a group of leading political scientists called for passage of the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform legislation. These scholars, including Thomas E. Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, say that political parties will be strengthened, not weakened, by the reforms contained in the bill.

In a signed letter, the group of 17 political scientists, including Donald Green and Jonathan S. Krasno of Yale University, Frank J. Sorauf of the University of Minnesota, and Ira Katznelson of Columbia University, addressed a number of issues to be debated by Congress later this week:

  • PARTIES STAY HEALTHY ON HARD MONEY DIET. “The hard money alone that the political parties raised in 2000, some $712.2 million, was far beyond any total, both hard and soft, that the political parties were able to raise in any federal election cycle prior to 1996.”
  • BROADER POLITICAL PARTICIPATION. “[P]arties are certain to redirect their current soft-money raising efforts toward hard money, thereby increasing the pool of resources far beyond current hard money totals and broadening their base of grass-roots contributors. “ Money will be raised in smaller amounts, from a larger base of contributors.”
  • MORE PARTY BUILDING. “In terms of spending, the parties will likely shift away from candidate-specific advertising and towards more grassroots, get-out-the-vote, and party-building activities.”

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law made public the letter expressing the political scientists’ support for the Shays-Meehan legislation. The views of the political science community buttress an empirical study of soft-money spending released by the Brennan Center last week. The Brennan Center study, based on FEC data, found that in the 2000 campaign just 8 cents of every soft-money dollar spent by the parties went to voter education, phone banks, voter registration, get-out-the-vote drives and other traditional party-building activities.

“Leading political scientists are convinced that parties will thrive on a diet of hard money. Parties will spend more time engaging rank and file voters and less time courting the richest donors,” said Nancy Northup, Director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “Congress has every reason to pass the Shays-Meehan bill. The parties win. Voters win. Democracy wins.”

Click here for the complete text of the letter in support of the Shays-Meehan bill signed by 17 political scientists is attached.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law develops and implements a nonpartisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms. For more information, please visit, or contact Scott Schell at (212) 998-6318, or Amanda Cooper at (212) 998-6736.

Click here for other documents Shays-Meehan.