It may seem that with the Buckley decision, soft money and PACs the hope for reform has been lost, however there is still hope. The Supreme Court upheld the voluntary public financing of presidential election, which was considered a great step forward because taking public funds requires the candidate to limit their spending on the federal level. There is also the “hard money” in political campaigns, which is strictly regulated by law through the Federal Election Commission. Hard money is the contrast to soft money meaning that it is the contributions made by a person or PAC that gives to a federal campaign or political party for the use in federal elections. But of course with one step forward there is always two steps back. Because of the way soft money has forged it way into being one of the primary sources of federal campaigns, it has made a mockery of public financing at the federal level. Soft money and all its allied forms of legal cheating and finance loopholes have almost completely stopped any effort or control to regulate and disclose federal campaign funding.
From the 1980s to 2002 Congress played an active part in helping the parties and candidates through loopholes (arguably Congress is still presently helping). James Bopp (1999) believes the explosion of soft money in political campaigns in part came from the 1996 elections when national and state party committees would use soft money to pay for advertisements that featured their respective nominees, but were not subject to the spending limitations of publicly funded candidates. These advertisements are referred to as issue ads, which would clearly promote the victory or defeat of candidates, but because they did not use the words “vote for”, “elect”, or “defeat” they were not considered express advocacy ads and therefore were not bound to FECA limitations or congressional regulations. As a result, all means of legal cheating had been justified.
PACs and overly wealthy individuals are not the only ones dipping their hands in the secretly jumbled world of campaign finance. Smaller interest groups and lobbyists are also getting their favors and paychecks. Because election laws are so crammed with exceptions these different groups can directly and openly support a candidate spending as much money as they would like. This loophole is referred to as independent expenditures. The Supreme Court cleared the way for smaller groups to work directly for or against a candidate, so long as the group does not coordinate its efforts with the candidate it supports. Although these expenditures tend to be a just a bit smaller then soft money funds, they are far more straightforward and blunt which proves to be even more effective (Anderson 2000).
In my view, campaign finance has gone from something that could potentially help give the power of government back to the people to a complete joke. When trying to answer the questions of campaign finance you get a series of hidden meanings, jumbled...