Campaign Finance Reform: Still a True Political Issue

 

 

In this election year one of the topics that is sure to come out on top would be campaign finance reform. Since 1757 when George Washington spent $195 for food and drinks to help win the election to the Virginia House of Burgesses campaign finance reform has been a huge part of American politics.  There are numerous views on campaign financing. People are divided on whether taking it away would be a violation of free speech, or keeping it would allow the top one percent (the wealthy citizens) of the American population to buy the election by influencing the candidate in hand, and making them their personally puppet. These are just two out of the many views in campaign finance reform, but they are the ones that are debated the most.

 

Since the 1890s numerous bills, laws, and acts have been passed to regulate or simply control campaign financing.  The Tillman Act and the Federal Corrupt Practices Act only starts the list. Through history limits have been applied and lifted toward campaign financing, thus telling citizens that the government is still unsure about their thoughts towards this ravenous topic. Recently, the Supreme Court decided to eliminate limits on campaign contributions in the case McCutcheon v. FEC. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat says “By limiting the influence of big money in politics, elections can be more about the voters and their voices, not big money donors and their big pockets. We need to have a campaign finance structure that limits the influence of the special interests and restores confidence in our democracy.” Money can influence candidates one way or the other. Some say that the only way to control this is by limiting contributions, limiting independent expenditures, and limiting soft money donations, by simply saying no. Wealthy donors and corporations donate too much to a particular campaign, thus corrupting the campaign, and making it unfair for middle and lower class voters. The “Clean Money, Clean Election” method shows a possible solution by making campaigns equal in regards to contributions.

 

Through the years the cost of a campaign continues to rise, and candidates are forced to rely on large private sector contributions to fund their costs. Although some view large campaign donations as corrupting the campaign and ruining true democracy. Others view it as a natural extension of a citizen’s freedom of speech. The fact of the matter is that today’s candidates need large sums of money to even say the words “I’m running for president.” There is no right answer to the question how large a role money should play in politics, but the government has taken methods such as regulating political spending, contribution limits, and public financing of elections. Candidates on average spend more time raising money for their campaign than they do trying to influence voters. Congress has evolved from a dependency upon the people, to a dependency upon the funders, thus showing us how much these big funders are needed. Some say there is nothing wrong with supporting a candidate through huge monetary contributions, it’s simply their way of showing their support. Freedom of speech is a part of the first amendment, making it a vital thing to protect in situations like these.

 

In this issue democrats further endorse the creation of a public campaign financing system for congressional elections and the passage of legislation to increase disclosure of outside money. While the Republican platform firmly supports the right of wealthy donors to give even more with less disclosure. David Donnelly says, “The Republican platform would create one political system for the billionaires like Donald Trump and one for the rest of us.”

 

There are various opposing views on campaign financing. Do large monetary contributions to a campaign allow that funder to influence the candidate, or are large donations to a campaign considered freedom of speech and in no way influence the candidate’s policies. The role money plays in politics is truly unknown. How much influence do contributions truly have on campaigns?  Having that answer will solve this problem, but it’s a difficult answer to obtain.

 

Sources:

“Campaign-Finance Reform: History and Timeline” by Beth Rowen

“On Campaign Finance, Republicans and Democrats could Not Be Further Apart” by Paul Blumenthal

“More Money Can Beat Big Money” by Lawrence Lessig

“From George Washington to Shaun McCutcheon: A brief-ish history of campaign finace reform” By Jaime Fuller

“Campaign Finance Reform: The Problem and Solution” by Aaron Swatz