US Campaign Finance

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The financing of national and state elections has been a political topic in the US since the early nineteenth century. In 1828, then-candidate for the US presidency Andrew Jackson was one of the first politicians to create a campaign committee to help him raise money, secure votes, organize rallies and spread his message to the public. One of the results of Jackson's organizing was that voter turnout nearly doubled in the presidential election of 1828 (in which he was victorious). However, Jackson's innovation also served to dramatically increase the cost of running a national political campaign. The rising price of campaigning led to the "spoils system," in which government jobs were given by victorious political parties in return for financial support from wealthy citizens. As a presidential candidate only 20 years later, Abraham Lincoln paid for his campaign out of his own pocket, which, even with the support of donations from wealthy individuals, nearly bankrupted him. Following the US Civil War, it became clear that politicians would need wealthy families and individuals to help bankroll their campaigns. In exchange, these wealthy groups expected politicians to support their specific interests, such as supporting legislation in certain areas or fighting against proposed legislation in other areas. In 1872, the Republican Party and Ulysses S. Grant received significant support from a relatively small group of individuals; for example, nearly a quarter of the Republicans' campaign expenses were paid for by railroad tycoon Jay Cooke.

 

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