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The person currently in office.


The tendency of a lesser-known or weaker candidates to profit in an election by the presence on the ticket of a more popular candidate.

political action committee

A committee set up by and representing a corporation, labor union, or special-interest group that raises and spends campaign contributions on behalf of one or more candidates or causes.


Drawing the boundaries of political districts so that districts are very unequal in population.


Drawing the boundaries of political districts in bizarre or unusual shapes to make it easy for candidates of the party in power to win elections in those districts.

sophomore surge

An increase in the votes that congressional candidates usually get when they first run for reelection.

position issue

An issue dividing the electorate on which rival parties adopt different policy positions to attract voters.

valence issue

An issue on which voters distinguish rival parties by the degree to which they associate each party or candidate with conditions, goals, or symbols the electorate universally approves or disapproves of.

independent expenditure

Spending by political action committees on political matters that is done directly and not by giving money to a candidate or party.

soft money

Funds solicited from individuals, corporations, and unions that are spent on party activities, such as voter-registration campaigns and voting drives, rather than on behalf of a specific candidate. These funds need not be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

prospective voting

Voting for a candidate because one favors his or her ideas for addressing issues after the election.

retrospective voting

Voting for or against the candidate or party in office because one likes or dislikes how things have gone in the recent past.

Federal Election Campaign Act

Created the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to administer campaign finance laws for federal elections. Provided partial public financing for presidential primaries. Provided full public financing for major party candidates in the general election. Requires full disclosure and limited contributions.

matching funds

Contributions of up to $250 are matched for candidates who meet conditions, such as limited spending. Also, candidates must raise at least $5000 in each state to get on a ballot.

McCain-Feingold Act

Banned soft money, increased amount of individual cuontributions, and restricted "independent expenditures."


Independent groups that seek to influence political process but are not subject to contribution restricts because they do not directly seek election of particular candidates.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

Corporations, like persons, are entitled to free speech as per 1st Amendment. The government may not limit independent spending on electrioneering. McCain-Feingold time limits invalidated. Long-time ban on direct contributions by corporations and labor unions to political campaigns remains. Ban on soft money contributions to and expenditures by political parties remains.

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