We’re but 80 +/- days from the 2012 presidential election and if you’re like many Americans, the bickering, pettiness and downright childlike behavior some politicians are exhibiting are really beginning to take a toll on your nerves. We couldn’t agree more. So, we thought we’d leave the “politicking” to the politicians while we explore the controversial campaign finance reform.
Remember, this all centers around the massive fundraising efforts politicians make during an election year. Millions of credit card charges are keeping the credit card networks busy, but our contributions aren’t the only way candidates are raising money – and therein lies the controversy.
Did you know these types of debates date back to the 1800s? Hundreds of years ago, political candidates were demanding fiscal transparency and the option of unlimited donations from wealthy companies from their competition – and all the while, refusing to do the same.
These days, though, bitter disagreements are coming courtesy of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, despite it being in place since 2002. This act is responsible for the ban on “soft money”. Soft money is considered unregulated contributions. The law also allowed people to donate up to $2000 per election – it was at $1000 prior to the law’s passage and has since been raised again to $2500. One of the more controversial aspects was the limits placed on the kind of influence big business and unions have on elections.
It took eight years, but changes were made in 2010 in the now-familiar Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The courts ruled our government had no power to regulate how much anyone – even unions and major corporations – chose to give to their candidate or political party of choice.
If you’ve been watching the news, you’ve likely heard of the PACs and so-called Super PACs. These are specific sectors or groups that funnel tremendous amounts of money to support a candidate who has perhaps promised something in return. Non-connected PACs aren’t necessarily linked to any particular business sector, which provides more leeway in their efforts. This too was a result of the Citizens v. FEC ruling. Now, though, the Super PACs have found away around their restrictions, too. While financial contributions are closely monitored, a Super PAC can go about its business of gaining donations and then provides it in an indirect manner to whomever they’re backing, say, payments for national TV commercials.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the financial sector alone contributed upwards of $468 million to federal campaigns and individual candidates during the 2008 elections, which is indicative of a whopping 80% increase over the two previous elections.
Most recently, the Supreme Court ruled against a ban in Montana on corporate spending. This ruling, which came down in June, makes it easier for those conducting fundraising campaigns.
So what’s the solution? Those solutions have eluded the country for more than a century. Regardless of the legalities on how money’s spent, there also exists an ethical consideration; unfortunately, those ethics aren’t always top priority.
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