A new study indicates term limits have not decreased the amount of money flowing into legislative races and that money most often flows into the campaign coffers of incumbents.
The Platte Institute has released its study of money in state senate races in the era of term limits, called Capitol Gains [PDF of Capitol Gains].
Platte Institute Director John McCollister said the study enforces the notion that incumbents have a great advantage in legislative campaigns.
“Actually, in 59 comparative races during the term limit era, the candidate who had the greatest amount of money won 81% of the time,” McCollister told Kevin Thomas on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN’s Drive Time Lincoln.
Voters approved a constitutional amendment limiting the terms of state senators in 2000. It took effect in 2006. The amendment limits state senators to two consecutive four-year terms in the Unicameral. After sitting out a term, a senator can run again for the legislature.
The Platte Institute study examined the filings of 133 legislative candidate committees. It also studied the paperwork of 107 political action committees (PACs) as well as state and local political party expenditures. The study covered three election cycles: 2006, 2008 and 2010.
The study found that term limits haven’t diminished the financial support flowing to incumbents and most of that money flows from business interests to state senators running for re-election.
Total campaign spending in 2008, according to the study, surpassed $3.6 million, up nearly half a million dollars form 2006. Spending declined in 2010, largely because of a drop in individual donations.
“And, you know what, they don’t actually differentiate between political parties,” according to McCollister. “Business groups contributed as heavily to those Democrat senators as they do to Republicans.”
Contributions made by labor groups heavily favor Democrats.
While much money flows to candidates, more and more special-interest groups spend on their own; the so-called third party expenditures that favor certain candidates, but aren’t controlled by the candidates or their campaigns.
We will begin hearing from them soon and what we hear will largely be criticism of certain candidates.
“That’s the teachers union, the trial lawyers and the Teamsters,” McCollister stated. “About half of the money they contribute now is negative campaigning that occurs in the last two weeks of any campaign.”
The study states that such independent expenditures by business, labor and other PACs have increased each election cycle and the advertisements they sponsor are increasingly negative.
The casualty in all this could be the general public, according to the study, which has found that individuals seem less engaged as special interests take over state politics.
Kevin Thomas, KLIN, contributed to this report.