Money and Campaigns in the Lincoln Era

By Thomas F. Schwartz

Every presidential campaign cycle brings with it warnings of unprecedented amounts of money that will be raised and spent by the candidates and political parties. Reporters have estimated that both the George Bush and John Kerry campaigns have raised well over $100 million. Moreover, it is claimed that if fund-raising efforts continue at current levels, the Bush campaign may well exceed the $200 million threshold. Reformers often appeal to the past as an example of simpler and better days when money was less of a factor in the campaign process. This school of thought posits that issues rather than money drove campaigns. While it is a truism that mid-nineteenth-century politics was different than twentiethand certainly twenty-first-century campaigns, one can find examples of the same complaint with regard to the role that money played in the process.

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