Campaign Finance Reform in the United States

Essay by MathDebaterHigh School, 11th gradeA+, February 2007

download word file, 6 pages 4.3

Until very recently, the American government and all political affairs in the United States had been dominated by extraordinarily wealthy individuals and corporations. Claiming to be adhering to the American values of free enterprise and self-expression, rich people and organizations used their money to support the campaigns of politicians whose platforms they agreed with without being monitored or limited by any government organization. In the latter part of the twentieth century, however, many Americans began to believe that the domination of politics by the wealthy was undermining democracy and the idea of all Americans having an equal say in political affairs. Beginning with the passage of the Federal Election Campaign Act in 1971 and its subsequent enactment in 1974, the debate over campaign finance reform has continued to spark controversy, with supporters claiming that reforms give everybody a fair chance to influence the government and opponents claiming that reforms directly violate the 1st Amendment.

Three of the most well-known proposals for campaign finance reform are the elimination of soft money, the limitation of independent expenditures, and the raising of limits on individual contributions.

Although hard money donations have been limited since 1974, the banning of soft money occurred much more recently. Soft money refers to money that is donated to political parties for party-building purposes rather than to the campaigns of specific candidates. Between 1974 and 2002, affluent individuals and companies took advantage of the fact that there were no limits on soft money by donating exorbitant amounts of money to the parties that they supported. This was brought to an end in 2002 by the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, more commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act, which completely eliminated soft money (Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act). Supporters of campaign finance reform celebrated the banning of soft...