Election Campaign Financing Chris AlibaruhoBA 243 Topic Report When researching for this paper, I found that the general consensus showedthat special interest financing is a growing influence on the outcomes of elections inrespect to election campaign financing. As you will see I have identified the problemsand then proceed to discuss possible reforms with use of a pro and con method. The first of the main problems in the issue of campaign financing are theindependent expenditures. According to the Federal Election Committee (FEC), anindependent expenditure is an expenditure of money for communications expresslyadvocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified federal candidate which is notmade with the cooperation or consent of, or at the request or suggestion of, anycandidate or any of his or her agents or authorized committees.In other words, they are political expenditures or expenditures frequently made to payfor television and radio advertisements, press conferences, political rallies byindividuals, groups, or parties seeking to promote a specific message about issues orcandidates during an election season. These expenditures have the potential to affectthe outcome of the race because they imply which candidate is the best withoutdirectly telling voters which candidate to choose. Although they are independentbecause they are produced without consulting the candidate or his campaign, peoplecriticize them for having the same negative impact as direct contributions.
This is whyindependent expenditures can be seen as a problem. The second area that needs to be tackled in the issue of campaign financing issoft money. Also referred to as nonfederal funds or sewer money, soft moneyrefers to campaign money raised and/or spent outside the limitations and prohibitionsof the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). According to the FEC, soft moneyoften includes corporate and treasury funds as well as individual contributions inexcess of federal limits. These cannot be legally used in connection with federalelections (elections for the US Senate, US House of Representatives, presidency andvice presidency.) The first assumption of todays campaign finance laws is thatpeople, not organizations, are vulnerable to the potentially corrosive influence ofpolitical money. The second assumption is that state and local political parties andtheir grass roots activities are valuable features of our civil culture that the federalgovernment should not interfere with.
This explains why most federal election lawsdo not cover contributions that support state and local nonfederal parties. Private money is raised by national parties to support state party organizationsand does not benefit specific people running for federal offices. Therefore, it is neitheruncommon or illegal for parties to raise as much as $1,000,000 from individuals andorganizations, some of which are banned from contributing directly to candidates.This is one of the many loopholes found in campaign financing. For example, thefederal government is permitted only to regulate the way in which campaigns forfederal offices are financed. It is left up to the individual states and municipalities todetermine how campaigns for the state legislature, governor, and local public officesare to be financed and how state and local political parties are to be regulated. Here isthe loophole; national political parties can establish nonfederal accounts to supportstate and local political activities.
These accounts are not regulated by federalcampaign finance laws because technically they have nothing to do with federalelections. Many soft money critics point out that candidates, contributors and otherspecial interests can technically obey the letter of the law, but by using soft moneyto get around the contribution and spending limits, they violate the spirit of thesame law. The last of the issues I shall be dealing with in my essay are the issues ofout-of-district distributions and out-of-state distributions. An out-of-state orout-of-district distribution is one of those terms that tries to capture a lot ofinformation in as few words as possible therefore omitting the important details aboutthe whole concept. After some research, it became apparent that out-of-districtcontributions refer to money donated to the House of Representatives and PACsresiding outside the district in which the candidate is running.
There are 435 Housedistricts in the United States, therefore an out-of-district contribution refers to anycontribution made to a House candidate by a person living in any of the other 434districts. An out-of-state contribution refers to money donated to a candidate for theUnited States Senate by individuals and PACs residing outside the state in which thecandidate is running. Of course there are 50 states so an out-of-state contribution isany contribution to a senatorial candidate by a person living in any of the other 49states. After looking at the above points, I realized there are many ways of reformingcampaign financing to correct what some people may see as problems in the system.When looking at independent expenditures, critics object to the growing use of thismethod to influence political campaigns. It is seen as just one more way for specialinterests and rich citizens to get around direct contribution limits. So as not to runafoul of the supreme court rulings concerning political speech, proposals to changethe current system of independent expenditures have generally focused on offsettingthe benefits that independent expenditures bestow on candidates rather than outlawthese benefits altogether.
With this in mind, I believe one way of reformingexpenditures would be to allow increases in a candidates spending depending on hisor her opponents expenditures. For example, if a candidate has agreed to voluntaryspending limits and his opponent has benefited from expenditures, the candidatewould be allowed to increase his or her spending by the amount of expenditures.However, like in many situations, there are pros and cons. One con to this is that anyattempt to limit expenditures directly may be ruled unconstitutional by the SupremeCourt. Also independent expenditures provide opportunities for a wide range ofgroups to support the interests of their members. A reform on independentexpenditures would affect the ability of these groups to participate. One last con oflimiting expenditures is that it strengthens the major parties thus making it harder foroutsiders to challenge them. One of the pros of reforming the laws concerning expenditure is that all limitscan be enforced and regulated by existing institutions and authorities.
Also, limitingexpenditures would reduce the power of special interests who try to influenceelections outside the current regulations on contributions to candidates. Reformingexpenditures would reduce the overall amount of money flowing into campaigns,making it easier for citizens to run for office without having to be somewhat rich. Many argue that regulating soft money is the solution to the problems incampaign financing. The loophole has allowed contributors, candidates, and politicalparties to take advantage of inconsistencies between federal campaign finance lawsand state campaign finance laws to give and spend a lot more campaign money thanfederal laws permit. So called soft money is exploding. The parties raise soft moneyin huge quantities, supposedly to strengthen the party machinery but it is regularlychanneled to individual candidates. Issue advertisements are the latest dodge.
Theads display images of the candidates but avoid using words like vote for or elect-thus avoiding limits on party spending for candidates.- Kenneth Wheaten,Washington Post.Critics say that soft money has the practical effect of helping cash-strapped federalcandidates even though such money is supposed to be used only for non-federalparty activities. Private interest groups will continue to enjoy privileged access tolawmakers, as well as special influence with them, unless soft money contributors areprohibited. In my opinion, the best way to honor the intentions of federal campaignlaws is to subject soft money to the same regulations as other federal campaigncontributors and expenses. However, soft money contributions are used to fundthings like voter education programs and registration drives, which encourages theparticipation of citizens. Regulating soft money would have a negative impact on this. When looking at the pros of reforming soft money, it can be seen that softmoney contributions make a mockery of federal election laws designed to control theinfluence of wealthy individuals and groups.
Soft money provides a way forpresidential candidates to get around the voluntary spending limit that they agree to inorder to qualify for partial public financing of their campaigns, thus making somewhatof a dishonest presidential candidate. I think its best that curbs be made on softmoney because as long as it is allowed, political parties and candidates will continueto concentrate on the concerns of big money contributors rather than on issues thatconcern the general public.**.