National experts to examine effectiveness of public campaign funding

12/05/05

MADISON - Campaign finance experts from around the nation will meet at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Jan. 28-29 to gauge how well public election funding programs work and whether clean election programs increase competition, reduce the influence of special interests or change government policy.

"We have an opportunity to assess what we know and what we'd like to know about these programs. What works? Do public grants change government policies? Do publicly funded candidates behave differently than their privately funded counterparts?" asks Ken Mayer, professor of political science and director of the Wisconsin Campaign Finance Project.

The conference, to be held at the Fluno Center, 601 University Ave., will bring together political scientists, economists, legal scholars and policy analysts to discuss public funding programs and suggest research questions for the future.

Conference sessions will be open to the public, but only a limited number of seats will be available. Registration for the conference will open on Friday, Dec. 9. Contact Mayer at kmayer@policsci.wisc.edu for more details.

More information is available at the Wisconsin Campaign Finance Project Web site, http://campfin.polisci.wisc.edu/.

Mayer says that public funding programs, which offer candidates direct grants for their campaigns, have become more common at the state and local level - with Arizona and Maine having gone through three election cycles with the system. Just last week, Connecticut adopted a comprehensive public funding system for all state offices.

Increasingly, cities are adopting public funding as a model and many states are considering reforms for statewide, legislative and judicial elections, Mayer adds.

"Over the past decade, attention has focused on campaign finance at the federal level. Now that the policy and constitutional issues have been settled, it is time to take a good look at the laboratories of democracy: the states," Mayer says. "Studying state and local reforms can help us understand how public officials, candidates, voters, and interest groups respond to new rules."

Participants include: Ruth Jones, Arizona State University vice provost and former chair of the Arizona Clean Elections Commission; Thad Kousser, political science professor, University of California-San Diego; Jennifer Steen, political science professor, Boston College; Michael MacDonald, political science professor, George Mason University; Michael Malbin, political science professor, SUNY-Albany and director of the Campaign Finance Institute; Keith Hamm, political science professor, Rice University; Robert Hogan, political science professor, Louisiana State University; Ray La Raja, political science professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Michael Bailey, political science professor, Georgetown University; David Primo, political science professor, University of Rochester; David Milyo, economics professor, University of Missouri; John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government, Cato Institute; Robert Stern, director of the Center for Governmental Studies; Nathan Persily, political science and law professor, University of Pennsylvania; Anthony Gierzynksi, political science professor, University of Vermont; and John Coleman, political science professor, UW-Madison.

The conference is funded through a grant from the New York City-based JEHT Foundation.

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