I’ve been going back and forth with John Constantine in the comments section of this earlier post and we’ve both been searching for numbers on the oft-told story that, contrary to the initial expectations, McCain-Feingold actually hurts the Democrats more than Republicans because the former rely more on soft money.

I’ve finally located some numbers:

So, it looks that the claim is both true as evidenced by the 2000 elections but either a fluke or a new phenomenon in that the Republicans were doing far better previously.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John says:

    Many thanks for finding the numbers… It still seems to my naive eyes that Republicans raise more in soft money than the Dems, so the contention that they rely more on it seems somewhat misleading. Perhaps because they raise less than the republicans in hard money, this may contribute to the notion. But since they both raise about as much, I don’t see how that really follows. But again, I’m naive. I do agree with the premise that campaign finance laws – as currently written – hurt the Dems more. But that still doesn’t lessen my desire to see more campaign finance reform.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I think that’s the argument. Absent soft money, the Republicans have a $465.8M to $275.2M advantage ceteris paribus, which, of course, they never are. I presume the Democrats will adapt in an election cycle or two.

  3. John says:

    Or die 🙂

  4. Kevin Drum says:

    I’m confused. What do you mean, “the Republicans were doing far better previously”?

    The numbers seem to indicate that the Republicans have always done better at raising hard money (by nearly 2:1) but roughly the same at raising soft money.

    What changed in 2000?

  5. James Joyner says:


    I mean that 2000 was the only year on the chart that the Reps and Dems were roughly at parity in soft money. In 1992, the GOP was roughly 33% better and in 1996, roughly 20% better.

    I don’t know why 2000 was different. The rules hadn’t changed yet. Maybe Clinton and Co. had just figured something out? They were obviously raising a ton of cash.

  6. Paul says:

    My kingdom for a good memory….

    Wasn’t there an artice that a whole bunch of people blogged about 60 days ago that said something to the effect that 40% of the Dems money came for like 100 donors or something?

    The point that was made at the time was that these super rich people were the core of the Dems donations. If campain finance reform knocked those donations down, the dems were in trouble.

    (dusting of cobwebs in my brain–)

    OH YEAH- It was a George Will column as I recall. Anyone remember it? It might have at least some of the data you folks are looking for.


  7. John says:

    technically, that’s impossible for the hard money. $1000 was the maximum (I think, can’t remember). So unless they were really breaking the law in an obvious way, that can’t be true. Now soft money is something that this number could be true. I’d be mighty impressed, though, if it were the case.