Category Archives: Campaign Finance

Weekly Quiz: Test Yourself on this Week’s Events

The weekly quiz is now live in Mypoliscilab. Good luck!


Anonymous Money and Campaign Financing

Abuses in the electoral processes associated with American democracy often result in the passage of legislation and regulations that are represented to the public as “reforms” that will correct the problems.  In fact, there is a relatively stable pattern of abuses, public outcry, and reform that many believe began in the early 1970s and continues to this day.  Specifically, campaign financing and the role of big money in the electoral process has been the focus of many such reform efforts.  Most recently, McCain-Feingold attempted to reign in “soft money” and issue ads—among other things—leading indirectly to the most significant change in American elections since sliced bread.  Just over two years ago the Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission ruled, in essence, that corporations had the same rights as individuals to spend their own money as a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment.  Alas, we have witnessed the birth of the latest round of abuses and reforms that will dominate the money and politics debate for the next ten years (if we last that long).

The “baby,” the Super PAC, is the instrument being used by big money to influence the outcome of the 2012 federal election cycle.  Donors are giving money to non-profit corporations that have been established to serve some basic cause, which in turn are collecting and funneling money to Super PACs that have been created to promote particular candidates.  Because the donations are going directly to non-profit corporations donors do not have to be identified to the media or federal campaign finance regulators.  In other words, anonymous money, the complete and absolute opposite of transparency and reform has found a welcome and protected place in American electoral politics.  Any attempt to sell this as good for America can only be judged for what it is, the outright abandonment of one-person one-vote in the United States and the ascendency of government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich.  To claim as some have that there has always been a place for secrecy and privacy in American politics, citing examples such as the secret ballot and the use of aliases by the authors of the Federalist Papers can only be characterized as the most shameful sophistry.  How’s this for an example of anonymity, wearing a white hood and sheet to protect my right to privacy?  Why not, seems there are no limits after all.

What do you think?  Is there any way to keep money from corrupting the political process?  Is money an integral and unavoidable feature of democracy  in the United States?


MPSL VLog: Contributions to Campaigns: Now Secret and Tax-free

Campaign finance reform touts transparency so Americans can see who funds a campaign. This includes requiring PACs to list all contributions, and who they are from. Now, there is a way to give unlimited funds anonymously. Professor Gaffaney explains.

Super Pacs and the Future of American Democracy

For a time Political Action Committees (PACs) served as the fundraising arms of groups and organizations interested in financing political campaigns around the country.  Federal and state laws limited political contributions by many groups and individuals to very specific amounts and required extensive reporting of contributions to a variety of regulatory bodies.  The regulation of campaign contributions through the years has invariably been a reaction to scandals which lead to reforms that are intended to rein in abuses in campaign financing and electioneering by those involved.

Recent changes in the legal landscape are already proving that money will play a bigger role in future elections than probably ever before.  Corporations (and by implication organized labor unions) are now free to contribute unlimited funds to support candidates and issues.  Although direct contributions to candidates and their campaigns are still limited, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has removed all limits on political spending that is not directly controlled or coordinated by candidates.  Super Pacs are born.  Independent political organizations and funds can now be formed with the sole purpose of supporting and defeating candidates.  Corporations can now donate as much money as they want directly into the political process.  Whether they did or not prior to Citizens United we may never know.  But the impact on future elections is expected to be profound.  David Goldstein predicts that the 2012 elections for Congress and the White House will be the most costly in the history of the United States.

This is all happening at a time when the economic outlook for the United States is bleak.  The average citizen is struggling to make every penny count.  Corporate America, on the other hand, is enjoying better profits, huge cash reserves, and very little incentive to share their wealth with working and non-working Americans.  What do you think?  Will American voters find themselves squeezed out of the political process as corporations open their pocketbooks for elections but not jobs?  How will this impact my donation of $25.00 to my favorite candidate?


MPSL VLog: Spending During Campaigns

When candidates run for office, the FEC monitors campaign contributions, and how that money is spent.  Now, a case against John Edwards explores when personal spending during a campaign counts as campaign spending. Professor Gaffaney explains.


Weekly Quiz: Test Yourself on this Week’s Events

The weekly quiz is now live in Mypoliscilab. Good luck!

The One Billion Dollar Man

It is estimated that President Barack Obama will raise one billion dollars for his 2012 presidential reelection bid. As a result, any republican challenger will have to raise the same amount of money if they truly intend to unseat him as president of the United States. A recent blog post at Fox Forum advocates New Jersey’s Chris Christie as a potential 2012 presidential challenger  due to his popularity and name recognition.  Name recognition describes the number of people in the electorate who are aware of a politician and is considered a significant factor in elections. Candidates with high name recognition are likely to receive the majority of votes from low-information voters which could be a major advantage.

However, the amount of political money necessary to run for high office raises serious questions regarding how democratic our society truly is. Have political campaigns become expensive to the point that only those with an already established image or name recognition can compete? Can we truly claim to be democratic if the only people able to enter politics are the only people able to raise large sums of money?