Campaign Finance Reform

Topics: Federal Election Campaign Act, Campaign finance in the United States, Campaign finance reform Pages: 9 (3014 words) Published: November 10, 2008
Each year billions of dollars are spent on getting candidates of various offices of government elected. Many candidates have had tremendous success through the efforts of much needed monetary contributions to their campaign. Contributors range from unions, religious leaders, organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), the National Rifle Association (NRA), and senior citizens groups. When these groups, known as special interest groups, donate to candidate’s campaign, they expect the candidate to respond to their issues. Because special interest groups, as well as private citizens donate more and more money to campaigns, there is some concern that there is a great need for campaign finance reform. The total price of the 2004 presidential and congressional elections was $4 billion and perhaps a lot more, up from nearly $3 billion in 2000 (, 2006). Campaign contributions cover the cost of advertisement, political consultants, the cost of travel, printing and mailings fees, and the list goes on. In this technological society that we live in, new technology contributes to the increased cost of elections. Candidates have changed with the times and have gotten more sophisticated in the area of campaigning. The Internet is a great source of election information and individuals who are running for office has taken advantage of setting up websites to keep voters informed on where they stand on certain issues. The cost of financing a good campaign and thoroughly getting the name of a candidate out is costly and can put a strain on any budget. The first Federal campaign finance legislation was a 1867 law that prohibited Federal officers from requesting contributions from Navy Yard workers (Federal Election Commission, 2006). During the 1800s parties depended on donations from private citizens to fund their campaigns. During this era, congress enacted many laws to prohibit the wealthiest individuals from taking total control or total influence of candidates. Candidates were also known for buying votes or paying individuals to vote for them, which brought about more legislation and campaign reform. The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) of 1971 together with the 1971 Revenue Act initiated fundamental changes in Federal campaign finance laws. The FECA, effective April 7, 1972, not only required full reporting of campaign contributions and expenditures, but also limited spending on media advertisements, which were later repealed (Federal Election Commission, 2006). The people were not completely satisfied with the FECA of 1971. In 1974 the FECA Act was amended. Because of campaign abuse, congress amended the act to limit contributions to candidate who run for office. This amendment also created the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The FEC is an agency that is responsible for acting as a clearinghouse for information on campaign laws and an enforcer of these laws. The public was so outraged at the Watergate scandal, which prompted an amendment to the FECA, which resulted in further changes in campaign finance law. The FEC was put in place just as President Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal which included charges that he abused his power as President and obstruction of justice during the investigation of his campaign contributions. Much of these amendments and legislation was not fully enforced and had many loopholes, causing criticisms and disputes from politicians. Because of unresolved issues with the 1974 amendments, Senator James L. Buckley of Yew York and former Senator Eugene McCarthy from Minnesota challenged the amendments. Their argument was that the amendments were unconstitutional. The result was a landmark case (Buckley v. Valeo) in which the Supreme Court of the United States upheld federal limits on campaign contributions and ruled that spending money to influence elections is a form of constitutionally protected free speech. The court also stated candidates can...

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