Campaign Finance Reform
Political Campaigns in America, where democracy is a highly valued necessity, have a unique place in society. During Presidential campaigns, candidates become quasi celebrities and spend hundreds of millions of dollars promoting themselves. During the month of September in 2008, Obama raised over $150,000,000 which shattered all previous fundraising records. He went on to raise over $770,000,000 total during his 2008 presidential campaign (ABC). These enormous sums of money are donated by individuals and institutions and are protected in some instances by the first Amendment of the constitution as “freedom of speech.” Which such a large amount of capital being donated and spent during political campaigns in America, the practice needs intricate rules and regulations.
In 1972, the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) was voted into law. This was the first successful attempt to regulate campaign finance in America. In 1974 this law was amended and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was created. The objectives of the FEC are to disclose campaign finance information, enforce donation limits, and oversee the public funding of presidential elections. In 2002, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as McCain-Feingold, became law (Federal Election Comission). This amendment to FECA specifically attempted to decrease the power of soft money donations, which are donations not regulated by FECA, in order to make campaign finance more transparent. These regulations specifically target institutional donators such as corporations.
Corporations, dealing in anything from finance to energy, are invariably affected by political decisions. Due to this, businesses spend a great amount of time and money lobbying congress and other political bodies to make favorable rules and regulations. This includes donating money to political candidates, whether they be judges or congressman, in an attempt to put sympathetic politicians in office. In just five years, judicial election spending increased from $3,000,000 in 1990 to over 15,000,000 in 1995. By 2005, candidates raised over $45,000,000 (Big Business Taking Over). Corporate interest groups have found ways to evade FECA donation rules and limits in order to give their favored candidates an unfair monetary advantage.
For corporations, political benefits can be enormously beneficial. Consider an energy company where senior managers want to expand production to a new state. Since laws vary from state to state, an unfavorable decision maker can potentially halt the company from drilling within their boundaries. This could be devastating to the company’s growth rate, and damaging to its bottom line. Corporate interest groups serve to promote a business’s interests by donating money to specific candidates in an attempt to create a amiable atmosphere to conduct business in. Since regulations for elections have certain loopholes, these activities are legal and common.