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Money in American Politics: An Encyclopedia
Pagexiii(14 of 391)
Preface Money occupies an ambiguous yet important place in American culture. On the one hand, money, as the biblical injunction declares, is the root of all evil. But money is also central to the American dream, which historically has included amassing the wealth necessary to buy a house and other material goods. Similarly, money occupies an ambiguous yet important place in American politics. Mark Hanna, an early 20th-century Ohio party boss, is reputed to have said, “There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.” Similarly, Jesse Unruh, a former California politician, said that money is the “Mother’s milk of politics.” Conversely, former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis declared this: “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” All of these quotes speak to the central role of money in American politics, and how it potentially impacts campaigns, elections, lobbying, legislating, and perhaps even the very fabric of how democracy in the United States is practiced. To some, money corrupts it is a tool of leverage used by special interests and the wealthy to unfairly bias the political agenda in their favor. Conversely, others see money as speech, as a legitimate resource in a capitalist society for Americans to express their political views and ideas as protected under the First Amendment. If in fact money does talk, then it is deserving of constitutional protection and thus there is no problem in its use for expressive purposes. Examination of the role of money in American politics raises at least two ques- tions. The first is empirical, the second normative, and the two are connected. The first question simply asks the following: What role does money have in American politics? This question looks to who has money, who makes political donations, or who expends money for political purposes. It looks to see what role money has in influencing legislation, who votes, who wins elections, or who runs for office. The second question is normative, asking whether the different patterns revealed by empirical inquiry produce desirable or undesirable outcomes or patterns in U.S. politics. It asks whether money corrupts legislation, distorts or biases the political agenda, or provides important ways for individuals and organizations to express their political views. It also asks whether the patterns of income or wealth distribu- tion in the United States are good or bad for the nation’s democracy. Answering the normative question requires answering the empirical question. Money in American Politics: An Encyclopedia seeks to provide some answers to both of these questions. More accurately, it examines or documents what is cur- rently known about the role of money in American politics, and it catalogs what