Campaign Finance

Essay by John_GaultHigh School, 12th gradeA+, July 2009

download word file, 7 pages 0.0

In the short history of the United States, political campaigns have gone through major changes. Since 1925, Federal laws have limited campaign spending; in 1971, Congress passed the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) in reaction to the Watergate affair, revising the limits on campaign spending and contributions. Congress drastically revised this act in 1974. In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled in the Buckley v. Valeo decision that some of the provisions of the FECA violated freedom of political speech, as it pertains to the First Amendment. Since then, the financing of Congressional campaigns has evolved toward "soft money", unregulated money that goes directly to state and local parties. Soft money has, in effect, changed the way campaigns are financed and the role of interest groups in campaigns (Berry p. 161, '97).

Today, campaign finance is a hot issue. In the twenty years since the landmark decision Buckley v. Valeo, the growth of money interests, such as soft money contributions and Political Action Committees (PACs), organizations created to raise and spend money for candidates, has been exponential.

Many people, including politicians, feel that it is time to reform our campaign system; money, and the corruption it brings, plays a role that is too large for our political system.

The influence of money on campaigns is clear: those with more money generally win elections. All campaign money is classified into two major groups: "hard money", which are Federally regulated contributions from individuals and PACs to candidates or groups that make independent expenditures; and "soft money", which are all unregulated contributions to national, state, and local Republican and Democratic parties for general party-building activities. Hard money contributions are limited annually to $25,000 per individual: $1,000 per election to a federal candidate, $5,000 to a PAC, and $20,000 to a national party committee. PACs...