La Raja

Raymond J. La Raja

Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts
Chapter Member: Boston SSN
Areas of Expertise:
  • Civic Engagement
  • Media & Public Opinion

Connect with Raymond

About Raymond

La Raja’s expertise includes U.S. campaign finance, elections, political parties, interest groups, civic participation, public opinion, and political reform. He is on the Academic Advisory Board for the Campaign Finance Institute and is Associate Director of the UMass Poll. La Raja is also founder and Editorial Board Member of The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, a quarterly electronic journal for scholarly analysis and commentary on public issues.

In the News

Raymond J. La Raja quoted on President Trump's reliance on small donors in Thomas B. Edsall, "The Changing Shape of the Parties is Changing Where They Get Their Money" The New York Times, September 18, 2019.
Guest to discuss attracting young voters on Marketplace, Raymond J. La Raja, July 12, 2016.
Raymond J. La Raja quoted on how states with stronger parties have less polarized legislatures in Jonathan Rauch, "The Secret to Saner Elections? Stronger State Parties" Los Angeles Times, March 22, 2016.
Regular contributionsRaymond J. La Raja to WBZ-TV (CBS Boston).
"Supreme Court Justices at Work, Bashing Unions," Raymond J. La Raja, The Hill, October 13, 2015.
"Unlimited Party Fundraising and Spending Gives You Less Polarized Legislatures? Discuss.," Raymond J. La Raja (with Brian Schaffner), The Washington Post, July 8, 2015.
"CRomnibus Pays Off for Parties," Raymond J. La Raja, MassPoliticsProfs, December 17, 2014.
"Spending Bill Provision Would Provide Big Boost to Party Fundraising," Raymond J. La Raja, Interview with Peter Overby, National Public Radio, December 10, 2014.
"In Defense of Horse Trading behind Closed Doors," Raymond J. La Raja, MassPoliticsProfs, May 9, 2014.
"McCain-Feingold’s Devastating Legacy," Raymond J. La Raja (with Robert Kelner), The Washington Post, April 11, 2014.
"The McCutcheon Decision Could be Good News after All," Raymond J. La Raja, The Washington Post, April 3, 2014.
"The Supreme Court Might Strike Down Overall Contribution Limits. And That’s Okay," Raymond J. La Raja, The Washington Post, October 9, 2013.
Guest to discuss money in politics on NPR Morning Edition: Coming to a Political Campaign Near You: Outside Money, and Lots of It, Raymond J. La Raja, May 16, 2012.
"Don’t Romanticize Town Meeting Democracy in Amherst," Raymond J. La Raja (with Wouter Van Erve), Amherst Bulletin, June 3, 2005.

Publications

Campaign Finance and Political Polarization: When Purists Prevail (with Brian Schaffner) (University of Michigan Press, 2015).

Argues that campaign finance reforms give power to ideological factions in the political parties and polarizes the political system. Recommends reforms that channel more money through party organizations, which are highly pragmatic, as a way to reduce the ideological distance between the major U.S. parties.

"The Fates of Challengers in U.S. House Elections: The Role of Extended Party Networks in Supporting Candidates and Shaping Electoral Outcomes" (with Bruce Desmarais and Michael Kowal). American Journal of Political Science 59, no. 1 (2014): 194-211.

Illustrates how a dense and narrow network of activist donors helps advance the success of challengers for the U.S. Congress. 

"Political Participation and Civic Courage: The Negative Effect of Transparency on Making Small Campaign Contributions" Political Behavior 36, no. 4 (2014): 753-776.

Argues how disclosing the contributions of small donors can undermine political participation, especially for citizens surrounded by people with different political views. Discusses how individuals refrain from making small campaign contributions or reduce their donations to avoid disclosing their identities.

"Richer Parties, Better Politics? Party-Centered Campaign Finance Laws and American Democracy" The Forum 11, no. 3 (2013): 313-338.

Explains the relationship between political parties and the political process. Explores whether strengthening party organizations, particularly by de-regulating their finances, would improve elections, representation and governing.

"Don’t Blame Donors for Ideological Polarization of Political Parties: Ideological Change and Stability Among Political Contributors, 1972-2008" (with David Wiltse). American Politics Research 40 (2012): 501-530.

Discusses how donors have always been more ideologically extreme than other voters but they did not become substantially more so until the 2002 elections.  Suggests that the source of partisan polarization is not necessarily with mass donors but with subsets of highly active partisans who donate or engage in other political activities. 

"Explaining the Unpopularity of Public Funding for Congressional Elections" (with Brian Schaffner). Electoral Studies 30 (2011): 525-533.

Discusses how citizens desire a campaign finance system that weans politicians from private donors, but are unwilling to pay a small amount in taxes to support public financing and how ironically, support for public financing through taxes is highest among the wealthier Americans who contribute money to politics.