Campaign Finance

Will Fricke, Drew Bonessi, Kate Perdion


Kate Perdion

In presidential elections canadages can fund their campaign by either private funds or public funds. Most incumbents take public funds which is given my congress. Or a canadate can choose to use private funding. Private funding is money that the canadate can raise on their own. It doesn't matter which method a canadate uses, they just can't do both. Amendments like the FECA and Watergate were added to reform campaign finance. The FECA straightened disclosure requirements for federal canadates, PACs, and political parties. Later it was reformed to set limits on contributions by individuals, political parties, and PACs, and the independent agency Federal Election Commision (FEC) was established to enforce the new laws. Watergate

Events in Campaign Finance

Drew Bonessi

Campaign Finance 1800-1970

Before 1867 there were no campaign finance laws in existence in the United States. Candidates could spend at will with their own money regardless. There was no regulations or laws constricting finances of candidates. This first regulation or act of constriction on campaign spending was in 1867. The federal government for the first time made it illegal to pressure workers at naval yards for campaign contributions. Then in 1906 president Theodore Roosevelt made the second constriction on campaign finance banning any monetary donations from any corporations which led to the passage of the Tillman act. Five years later in 1911 spending limits for individuals were introduced for federal campaigns. In 1943 the congress of industrial organizations formed the first pac. As a result this allowed for them to skirt around these restrictions put on for individual spending. (Ross)

Although these reforms were formally made they did not really prevent large scale spending as eventually PACS came into existence which obviously skirted around the idea of limits on individual spending. Initially in the United States in elections from 1800-1970 there really was no definite regulation or at least enough cracking down that would actually stop illegal contributions for political campaigns. Big money still ruled those campaigns as railroad financier Jay Cooke donated $50,000 in 1872. In addition to that large contribution came the campaign of Mckinley in 1896 where he began to look for corporate donations which in return he received large sums of money.(Ross)

Will Fricke

2002: Mccain – Feingold Act

In 2002, Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as the McCain – Feingold Act. This act was meant to limit the amount of money spent in campaigns and to them cleaner. Also, the act effectively required all campaign ads to say at the end, “I'm [Candidate's Name] and I approve this message." The Supreme Court case, McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, which was an attempt to rule the BCRA unconstitutional, outlined McCain – Feingold as a law that:

- made “soft money,” donations made in a way to avoid federal limits, such as donating to a party instead of a candidate, illegal
- reduced the capability of groups that wished to air issue advocacy advertisements that name a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or caucus or 60 days of a general election
- made it unlawful to for a group to air such an ad using funds donated by a corporation or union

The Senate bill, McCain – Feingold, is not the bill that became law. Rather, the House version of the bill, H.R. 2356, introduced by Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) became law.

2010: Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission

This 2010 Supreme Court case ruled that the first amendment prohibited the government from limiting political expenditures by corporations and unions. This decision overturned multiple cases such as McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, and ruled most of the BCRA unconstitutional. The Supreme Court left in place, however, a ban on groups using foreign funds in political activities.

During the 2004 Presidential campaign, Citizens United filed multiple complaints about an advertisement attacking President Bush’s response to 9/11, called Fahrenheit 9/11, produced by Michael Moore, a well-known liberal activist. The film was aired within the 60-day restriction on airing issue-advocacy ads before a general election, and, according to Citizens United, a conservative political group, advocated for the defeat of the President. These circumstances would have resulted in a heavy fine for Fahrenheit 9/11’s sponsors, but the FEC disagreed and dismissed the complaint. In 2008, Citizens United wished to air a film, Hillary: The Movie, a film highly critical of then-Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but was barred from doing so by a district court because of the 30-day restriction before a primary, prompting Citizens United to sue the Federal Elections Commission.

Senate and House Democrats made several attempts to essentially reverse this decision through legislation, such as by attempting to pass the DISCLOSE Act of 2010. The bill received the required votes in the House of Representatives, but was filibustered in the Senate with 59 votes, one vote short of breaking the filibuster.

Holland, Jesse J. ""Hillary: The Movie" next on Supreme Court Docket." Politics. The Seattle Times, 22 Mar. 2009. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.

"THE GREAT DEBATE: A Look at the Provisions of McCain-Feingold." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.

"Compliance Cases Made Public." Compliance Cases Made Public. Federal Elections Commission, 9 Aug. 2005. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.

Ross, Aaron. "Timeline: The Best Government Money Can Buy." Mother Jones. Mother Jones, Jan.-Feb. 2012. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.