Fundraiser in Chief
Presidents and the Politics of Campaign Cash
Sales Date: January 24, 2023
208 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: January 2023
- Published: January 2023
- Published: January 2023
Recent presidents have responded to the evolving rules of the campaign finance system and the competitive electoral landscape by devoting substantial amounts of their most valuable resource—their time—to fundraising. In the follow-up to his 2012 book, The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign, Brendan Doherty argues that presidential fundraising is an underexamined tool of modern presidential leadership and should be viewed as an instrument of presidential power akin to signing statements, executive orders, public speeches, and veto threats. Presidents raise campaign cash for themselves and for their fellow party members in the hope of electoral gains that will reshuffle the governing deck in their favor, but acting as fundraiser in chief sparks a host of controversies.
Based on an original dataset of 2,190 presidential fundraisers spanning more than four decades of presidents from Carter to Trump, Fundraiser in Chief is the first book-length work to analyze presidential fundraising in a systematic and comprehensive manner. Doherty draws on an unprecedented amount of empirical evidence to shed light on modern presidents’ fundraising priorities and strategies as they seek to move the country closer to their vision of a more perfect union.
Fundraiser in Chief is a study of presidential resource allocation strategy: how much of their scarce time presidents devote to fundraising, for whom they do it, what priorities are illuminated by their efforts, how their fundraising strategies relate to the evolving campaign finance landscape, under what circumstances they fundraise behind closed doors, and the resulting controversies and implications for presidential leadership and the American political system.
Doherty offers an argument about the incentives that drive presidents to fundraise so frequently while examining the controversial implications of their extensive efforts to raise campaign cash. He contends that rising campaign costs, limits on contributions to candidates and political parties, the inadequacy of the resources provided by the presidential public funding system, the specter of Super PACs raising funds in unlimited amounts, and fiercely competitive contests to control the White House, Congress, and governors’ offices across the country have all incentivized presidents to embrace their role as fundraiser in chief.
"Fundraiser in Chief fills a significant void in the literature by investigating presidential participation in the money chase."—Presidential Studies Quarterly
"Doherty reveals presidential habits not explained by the president’s party but by whether the president is running for reelection, whether the margins of control in Congress and state governments are close, and what the structure of the campaign finance regulatory system is at the time. Clear writing, informative tables and figures, and a balanced approach make this an excellent volume for undergraduates and advanced researchers alike. Highly recommended."—Choice
“Drawing upon a painstakingly collected data set of presidential fundraisers spanning nearly a half century, Brendan Doherty provides a comprehensive portrait of presidential fundraising in the modern era. This lucidly written and cogently argued book is the definitive scholarly account of the ‘fundraiser in chief.’ An invaluable resource for researchers, teachers, and journalists, it is also a must-read for all Americans concerned with the role of money in contemporary US politics.”—Richard J. Ellis, author of Presidential Travel: The Journey from George Washington to George W. Bush
“The president’s time is distinctly finite, but the demand for campaign cash is apparently infinite: Brendan Doherty’s important research digs into how presidents have managed that tension over the last forty-plus years. With new data—one might say rich data!—and keen insight, Doherty explores how presidents have both responded to institutional changes in the campaign finance regime and shaped them. This book provides the most comprehensive evaluation by far of the rise of presidents’ drive for donor dollars and whether the role of fundraiser in chief is not only time-consuming but potentially corrupting.”—Andrew Rudalevige, Thomas Brackett Reed Professor and Chair of Government, Bowdoin College
“Presidential fundraising is one more aspect of the job that has developed an outsized importance. Today, an important measure of leadership is raising dollars. Brendan J. Doherty does a masterful job of tracing this development and its implications for present-day politics. A must-read!”—John Kenneth White, The Catholic University of America, coauthor of American Political Parties: Why They Formed, How They Function, and Where They're Headed
1. Fundraising as a Presidential Leadership Tool
2. Escalation and Complication
4. Priorities and Strategies
5. Fundraising behind Closed Doors
6. Controversies and Prospects
Appendix: Tracking Presidential Fundraisers