Campaign Finance Reform
The Democratic and Republican presidential nominees for 1999 raised an astounding 126 million to finance their campaigns in the primaries (Godfrey). The U.S. national political parties raised a record 107.2 million dollars in soft money contributions in 1999 (Campaign Finance Reform). During the 1995-96 elections, public citizens estimated that an astounding 150 million dollars was spent on "phony" issue ads designed to support or oppose congressional and presidential candidates (Campaign Finance Reform). This outrageous influx of money into congressional and presidential campaigns has placed a blanket of corruption and injustice over our nation’s elections. With the rise of campaign corruption, many citizens and politicians have developed concerns with the current system of campaign finance and are demanding reform. Recently, the issue has surfaced in Washington as the McCain-Feingold and Shays-Meehan bills have been introduced in Congress. The core of the debate over campaign finance reform revolves around the constitutional battle of free speech versus maintaining democracy. While people want to cleanse elections of the increased corruption and monetary influences, concerns of infringement upon the first amendment of the Constitution arise. But, the first amendment has been used as a loophole in politics for too long. While infringing on the first amendment may threaten one of our sacred constitutional liberties, the corruption of campaign elections could eradicate the very democracy that is the backbone of our constitution which provides Americans with such liberties.
The problems that arise with the increased role of money in elections are plentiful. With such a growth in large individual contributions, citizens get the sense that elections are being bought and sold. People fear that large contributors often support candidates that would work to meet their specific needs in Congress instead of the needs of the entire society. Of course, such influence establishes a tyranny of the rich that our forefathers clearly wanted to prevent. Senator Russ Feingold, a proponent of campaign finance reform, said, "The current campaign finance system is fueling the transformation of our representative democracy into a corporate democracy creating a political system that allots power in direct relation to the amount of money an individual or interest group can contribute" (Campaign Finance Reform). The horror of such a governmental system has fueled the cries for campaign finance reform.
The current network of campaign finance is a complicated web involving individual contributors, soft money and hard money, and political action committee influence. In the aftermath of the crooked Watergate scandal, anxiety over campaign finance led to the passage of two major reform bills—the Revenue Act of 1971 and the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974—that have set the guidelines and regulations for campaign...