June 01, 2010

GAO Issues Extensive Report on Maine and Arizona Public Financing Systems

As mandated by Congress, the GAO has issued this extensive report (as well as this extensive technical supplement).
The bottom line of the report: not much has changed despite these programs:

    While there was some evidence of statistically significant changes in one of the five goals of Maine's and Arizona's public financing programs, we could not directly attribute these changes to the programs, nor did we find significant changes in the remaining four goals after program implementation. Specifically, there were statistically significant decreases in one measure of electoral competition--the winner's margin of victory--in legislative races in both states. However, GAO could not directly attribute these decreases to the programs due to other factors, such as the popularity of candidates, which affect electoral outcomes. We found no change in two other measures of competition, and there were no observed changes in voter choice--the average number of legislative candidates per district race. In Maine, decreases in average candidate spending in House races were statistically significant, but a state official said this was likely due to reductions in the amounts given to participating candidates in 2008, while average spending in Maine Senate races did not change. In Arizona, average spending has increased in the five elections under the program. There is no indication the programs decreased perceived interest group influence, although some candidates and interest group officials GAO interviewed said campaign tactics changed, such as the timing of campaign spending. Data limitations, including a lack of comparable measures over time, hinder analysis of changes in voter participation.

Posted by Rick Hasen at June 1, 2010 01:11 PM