Campaign Finance: Time for Reform?


Although I tried to go for the “fun” post this week by taking a quiz revealing my political stance, I found the quizzes to be too overwhelming.   I also didn’t like being labeled into a category where I did not believe all of the fundamental ideas.  That said, I decided to look more into the structure of politics to educate myself more on how it all works.  The financing of campaigns and the regulations purposed upon it were of particular interest.  This has been an issue of much debate as campaign financing has the ability to affect our very democracy, our regulation of corruption, our control over fair elections, the quality of leadership, and our ability to handle current problems.

This lead us to the Americans for Campaign Reform, a group who believes that public funding is “the single most critical long-term public policy issue our nation faces.” To ensure that those in power are elected for the right reasons, rather than just financial support, the Americans for Campaign Reform, supports two forms of legislation.  The first piece improves the existing presidential funding system by promoting small donor participation and providing public funding for well-qualified candidates.  The second piece allows congressional candidates to run for House and Senate races without needing large contributions or constant fundraising.

Currently, the Federal Election Commission creates and enforces regulations regarding campaign funding.  Their website provides access to current statutes and recent legislation.  But what I found most interesting was their legislative recommendations.  Some of these include electronic filing of senate reports, the authority to create senior executive service positions, and making the administrative fine program for reporting violations permanent.  It’s interesting that these do not coincide with the ones suggested for the Americans for Campaign Reform.  Although this might be due to the fact that some of their suggestions have already reached the House and the Senate.

Nevertheless, it is nice to see that there has been increased transparency of campaign fundraising. The website linked allows you to break down the sources and the amounts of money contributed in almost every way, even including celebrity endorses.  Although the issue of large-scale contributions by PACs is still not resolved, at least there are regulations in place and a source where we can discover more information about campaign funding during elections.

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7 thoughts on “Campaign Finance: Time for Reform?

  1. Sarah, I liked your honesty at the beginning and your rational for the blog option that you chose. I also really liked the questions you prompted. If you think about it, depending on the scale, campaign finance can have an incredible amount of effect on who wins, and there is no way around that. Therefore it makes sense that campaign finance is such a hot button and complicated issue (much of which I don’t understand). If journalists and media members allowed us to more clearly understand the issues at hand, we would be able to better incorporate them into our political views in each given situation.

  2. In my opinion, presidential campaigning has turned into a complete joke during the past few elections. In this technological era where information is wildly available, we have placed too much emphasis on the small details that dont matter. While I obviously can’t speak from experience, I believe that in the past, the debates and domestic/foreign issues were much more important. I also have to believe that the voter in the past was much more educated. Today it seems like everyone has an idea for who they are going to vote for, but virtually no grounding for this decision other than following your family’s lead, or negative campaigning.

    Negative campaigning frustrates me to no end. Continuing with the abundant problems associated with this atmosphere of abundant information, we are looking way to closely at unimportant facts like the religion of candidates or whether a candidate is a “flip flopper”. We need to focus on where the candidates stand now on the issues that are important, and care less about fickle details.

  3. I agree with Roger in terms of the recent decrease in campaign credibility. I know that celebrity endorsements of Presidential candidates and other politicians has been going on for decades, but in recent years it has begun to make me sick. The fact that Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Sarah Jessica Parker are sitting down for dinner with Obama means absolutely NOTHING for the election. It just provides big names that garner the attention of young voters. I know campaigning is an art (probably even a science), but at what point do we stop voting for celebrities and start voting for government officials?

  4. I agree Mike. The celebrity endorsement of presidential campaigns has done exactly what it intended: garnered the attention of young voters. But this is just one of the many ploys used in campaigning. After all, doesn’t every politician try to tweak their message slightly when talking to different audiences? The use of celebrity endorsements is no different. I can remember so distinctly during the campaigning 4 years ago and seeing the commercials with celebrities promoting “change” and supporting Obama. Although politics had no importance to me then, these commercials still made an impact on me, which proves that this is just another tactic of campaigns

  5. I’m glad you found this a moment to delve into campaign law. In a way, just as we have been talking about the role of regulation in the financial system, this is the “rules of the road” for politics. Unfortunately, the politicians tend to be in charge of these rules. Imagine if the most self-serving financial professionals, instead of merely having huge influence on regulation,a actually wrote the regulations.

    I do what to push you on one point. I don’t see how you can argue there is more transparency in the system now. Citizens’ United (was that 2009?) allowed outside groups to spend as much as they like in support of candidates.

    Congressional Quarterly, a magazine covering politics, discusses only SOME of the impacts of CU in this article.

  6. This is a very interesting post. So much money goes into political campaigns and it is interesting to think of even the ethics behind it. Are people voting for like Roger had mentioned the candidate who’s platforms and views they agree with or are they voting for the candidate with the most advertising and publicity? Are they voting for the celebrity endorsements? To go along with the point Mike made about sitting down to dinner with celebrities, there was recently a rumor that Nick Minaj endorsed Mitt Romney because she mentioned him in one of her songs. This article in the New York Times explains the confusion over her endorsement which turned out to be in fact false. Not surprising that Nicki Minaj would not endorse a Republican.

    http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/no-nicki-minaj-did-not-endorse-mitt-romney/

  7. I couldn’t agree more with Mike. Using celebrity endorsements to help get the votes of those in our country who are more focused on People Magazine… It seems like an absolute waste of money to me. It boggles my mind. Clint Eastwood talked to an empty chair on national television. Shouldn’t there be more creativity in ideas to make the country better, as opposed to in advertising and opponent-bashing schemes? Unfortunately, the only way for either candidate to keep up and get votes is to do this, which is dispiriting.

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