Alexander, Herbert E. 1927–2008

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Alexander, Herbert E. 1927–2008

(Herbert Ephraim Alexander)


See index for CA sketch: Born December 21, 1927, in Waterbury, CT; died of lung cancer, April 3, 2008, in Rockville, MD. Political scientist, campaign finance expert, educator, and author. Alexander is known as the man who pried open the vault of secrecy that had protected campaign finance information for decades. As the director of the Citizens Research Foundation from 1958 to 1998, he was able to gather data regarding the way that political candidates acquired and spent the vast sums of money that supported their campaigns. As the executive director of the President's Commission on Campaign Costs under John F. Kennedy, he was able to begin his analysis of how that money was spent. Alexander's original goal may have been to educate the public about how their campaign dollars were spent, but he quickly became a trusted advisor to candidates and campaign directors as well. Alexander was not a proponent of campaign contribution limits, but his work led to the creation of the Federal Election Commission and a burst of legislation to govern contributions and the reporting of contributions. He also had no desire to limit campaign spending; he argued, in fact, that the importance of the election process justified the formidable and ever-increasing costs. Alexander did, however, support government subsidies for political campaigns as a means of leveling the playing field between incumbents and their challengers. He supported the view that campaign costs, however staggering, were less important than transparency in campaign reporting by contributors and disclosures by candidates. Alexander taught political science at Princeton University (the original home of the Citizens Research Foundation) from 1958 to 1978, then at the University of Southern California (where he and the foundation moved in 1978) until his retirement in 1998. He also served for many years as chair of the International Political Science Association's research committee on political finance and political corruption. He wrote and edited many books on campaign finance, from local to national levels, most notably in the series begun with Financing the 1964 Election, a series that he continued through the 1992 election. Other books include Money in Politics (1972), PACs and Parties: Relationships and Interrelationships (1984), The Politics and Economics of Organized Crime (1985), and Comparative Political Finance among the Democracies (1994).



Nassmacher, Karl-Heinz, Foundations for Democracy: Approaches to Comparative Political Finance; Essays in Honour of Herbert E. Alexander, Nomos (Baden-Baden, Germany), 2001.


Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2008, p. B10.

New York Times, April 5, 2008, p. A15.

Times (London, England), April 25, 2008, p. 62.

Washington Post, April 5, 2008, p. B6.

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Alexander, Herbert E. 1927–2008

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