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Campaign Finance Essay

1834 words - 7 pages

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 may give up to $5,000 in each election to a candidate or to a group that sponsors independent expenditures. Soft money has no limits, yet parties must disclose the source of donations in excess of $200 (Rubin, p. 785, '97), (Berlau, p.16, '97).With the FECA and its successive amendments, the role of hard money has drastically declined in its significance since 1974. Soft money, on the other hand, rose by approximately 350 percent between 1980 and 1992 (Burns, p.326, '98). While soft money doesn't go directly into the candidates' hands, the party uses it to support its interest: getting members of that party elected. Soft money's influence on parties and candidates, because it is unregulated and is becoming more and more utilized by interest groups, is clearly one of great importancePACs play an important role in the collection and distribution of campaign money. The largest PAC contributor is the Democratic Republican Independent Voter Education Committee, better known as the Teamsters, that reported over $9 million in 1995-96 . This PAC made...

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