Campaign finance reform is a relevant topic in the United States that is centered on the amount of money that is used to fund political campaigns. It is a topic that spurs on a lot of debate and ignites both sides of the discussion. It has been an issue since the 1800’s, but first went into effect in the late 1970’s. Many debate on if this type of reform is needed or if it is beneficial to the public. It is important to understand what campaign finance reform entails and the pros and cons of this reform.
What Are the Pros of Campaign Finance Reform?
The Public Knows Where Funds Come From
One of the major benefits of campaign finance reform is the ability to know exactly where the funds for political campaigns are coming from. This allows for the public to know who the major supporters of certain campaigns are and why they would benefit from that politician gaining office. It simply allows for there to be more transparency and lees things going on behind the scenes.
Less Force Used to Gain Funds
It is no longer commonplace for corporations to be bribed into supporting certain political campaigns. This is one of the major benefits of the campaign finance reform. It took the power away from campaigns and gave them less leverage to work with.
What Are the Cons of Campaign Finance Reform?
Less Options for Funds
All the changes and restrictions given to how political campaigns can obtain funding has made it much more difficult for funds to be accumulated. It is now more difficult than ever before to raise the funds that are needed to promote a political campaign. This lessens the amount of potential candidates and does play a critical part in the types of politicians that are able to run for office and raise the required funds.
How Long Has the Need Been Apparent?
The need for some type of campaign finance reform has been necessary since the 1800’s. It was during this time period that politicians would use their own funds and the funds of supporters to persuade the public. It is even possible to trace the monetary influence within voting to incidents of bribery. The “Pennsylvania Idea” is one of the mishaps that is often used as an example when problems with campaign financing first became prevalent. This incident involved political groups using threats against corporations to make them finance campaigns. This led to a lot of problems and sparked the first need for reform.
Theodore Roosevelt Influence on Campaign Finance Reform
Theodore Roosevelt was the very first president to speak out in support of this type of reform and lead the charge. He was very supportive of a number of different bills that were specifically designed to address the issue of campaign finance and bring about some change. Even though Roosevelt supported a number of these bills, they were not passed by congress. However, in 1907 the Tillman Act was finally passed. This was an act that no longer made it legal for corporations to make financial contributions to campaigns directly. Even though this was passed, it was possible for politicians to navigate their way around this legislation and still get the funds that needed for campaigns.
Major Reform in the 1970s
Even though campaign finance reform has been a relevant topic since the 1800’s, major reform did not take place until the 1970’s. The Federal Election Campaign Act was first passed in 1971 and made it a requirement that all political campaigns allow for full disclosure of all funds. This means that it would now be necessary for the specifics of all campaign funding to be public knowledge. The Watergate scandal in 1974 only made the issue of campaign finance reform even more at the forefront in the minds of the public. There were different amendments added to the Federal Election Campaign Act as a result of this scandal and the debate it sparked.
The 1980′s Through 2000”s
Campaign finance reform debate was pretty quiet for most of the 1980’s and 1990’s, but it has been back in the news recently. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as the McCain-Feingold bill, in 2002 was a major part of current campaign finance reform. There was a lot of controversy involving this act and it involved the elimination of money being donated to a specific party and not just a candidate.