Campaign Finance Reform
Effective election campaigns have always relied on the candidates’ ability to raise money. Even in the days before television, radio and the internet, it still took money to get the word out to the people in a far-flung land. However, today’s candidates are faced with raising larger and larger amounts of money with each new election that comes along. Individuals are the primary source of campaign funding at the federal level, with political action committees running a close second. Their donations are regulated donations and are referred to as “hard money.” Organizations also contribute money to campaigns but often do so indirectly in ways that allow them to skirt regulations pertaining to campaign finance. This is referred to as “soft money.” With election season upon us, there has been a lot of talk about campaign finance reform. There are those who feel that the current system lacks fairness because wealthy individuals and special interest groups wield far greater power, and have far more say about certain issues, than ordinary citizens who cannot afford to make large contributions to their candidate’s campaign. One of the biggest hurdles to implementing campaign finance reform is the constitutional issue of free speech. Article I, section 4, and Article II, section 1, of the United States Constitution authorizes Congress to regulate federal elections. However, any regulations must conform to restraints imposed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. The courts have repeatedly held that, under the First Amendment, campaign contributions are protected as political free speech. Opponents to campaign finance reform believe that reforms will prohibit ordinary citizens from exercising their right to political free speech by curtailing their ability to advocate for or against particular candidates. Should limits be placed on political spending? The need for large amounts of money to run a campaign has led to what appears...
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