Campaign finance reform

Essay by flyndanaUniversity, Master's April 2004

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Are our senators and congressmen voices of the people, or voices of the special interests? Campaign finance reform has been an issue in almost every election in the past 10 years. Those candidates that have lots of money to spend are quiet about it, but those candidates who do not complain about it and make an issue of it. Most Americans would agree that the campaign fundraising process must be changed, but little action has been taken.

Among the various obstacles preventing Congress from enacting significant campaign finance reform is the Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo. As a result of the Watergate affair, Congress attempted to flush out corruption in campaigns by restricting contributions to candidates. The law also set limits on the amount of money one person can contribute to a single campaign and the amount a group can contribute. Individual political contributions are capped at $1,000 to any single candidate per election, with an overall annual limitation of $25,000 by any contributor.

It also requires reporting of contributions above a certain threshold amount. The Federal Election Commission was created to enforce the statute.

Opponents to Campaign finance reform such as the Cato Institute say "The right to spend money on politics, including the right to contribute to campaigns, is protected by the First Amendment. Attempts to limit that right should meet with a great deal of skepticism from both citizens and the courts. Many people argue contributions and spending corrupts the political process, but they do not provide compelling evidence of such corruption. Campaign finance regulation is not about "reform" or ethics. New restrictions on spending will only help those already in power by making it harder to challenge them." They claim that by setting limits on campaign finances they are violating the constitution.

The amount of...