Stricter campaign finance laws are necessary in order to ensure that the United States remains place where citizens have a voice no matter what their income level is. The largely unregulated Super PACs and 501c4s in politics today are corrupting the system by letting a few people with a lot of money dominate the campaign trail. Even though these nonprofits don't directly campaign for candidates, the line between issue advertisements and candidate endorsement is very hard to distinguish. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act was a move in the right direction, preventing national parties from raising or spending "soft money" on federal campaigns. The Federal Election Commission website defines soft money as "money raised outside the limits and prohibitions of federal campaign finance law.” This ruling was intended to keep spending in check, but it is relatively easy to get around it - the video “Big Sky, Big Money” is an example of this. The secretive groups in the video feigned compliance with federal regulations, but the discovery of boxes full of candidate signatures and forged letters proved that they had communication with specific people campaigning for office. We need strict campaign finance laws to prevent this kind of corruption from happening.
On the other hand, the overall ruling of the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo states that campaign spending is a form of speech protected under the First Amendment despite certain unconstitutional aspects involved. The government is unable to keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections. These groups are allowed to persuade public voting through other means like ads but not direct funding to candidates. Citizens United v. FEC determined that corporate speech rights are the same as an individual’s and thus, allowed companies to unlimitedly finance campaign ads. Super PACs disclose donor information, however, while nonprofits do not. More freedom in campaign fundraising would permit candidates to focus more time meeting citizens and tending to their official duties instead of fretting over collecting enough donations. Especially in a time when media advertising is expensive and competitive, candidates need more money than before to effectively communicate with voters.
Reflection (Hinh): I am partial on the matter. I think that anonymity for donor privacy should be a right if they do not wish to disclose their financial activity, and I agree with the Supreme Court’s verdict that campaign spending is a freedom of speech. My doubts about less regulation, however, stem from the problem that the wealthy will continue to dominate the election process through their unlimited donations because most working voters already cannot contribute more than the established limits, ensuing corruption. Although the legality and specifics of campaign spending is tricky, the right balance between strict and loose regulation needs to be determined to ensure that the public has fair opportunities to support the candidate of their choice through financial means should they choose to do so but also allow candidates to receive the funding they need for a successful campaign. Ultimately in an uncorrupt democracy, it is more important for candidates to address the public’s concerns over political, economic, and social issues to appeal to voters rather than “buying” their votes.
Reflection (Kwon): I’m not sure which side I support on this issue. Although allowing people to spend money on the candidates they wish seems ideal, the PACs and 501c4s are very sketchy. I think there needs to be a balance between the two arguments. There should be limitations and restrictions, but enough to end the possibilities of unfair advantages. If we go for a stricter enforcement of campaign laws, it doesn’t allow individuals to voice their opinion and support their party as they please. However, if we wish to lessen the extent of these laws, it allows the wealthy to dominate. Overall, I believe that we should find a good “middle” where both sides have equal opportunities of winning.
Reflection (Carhuamaca): I believe we should enforce stricter finance laws, such as disclosure and contribution limits. Reforms are needed to reduce the influence of moneyed interests and inhibit corrupt practices. Without any restrictions, the wealthy are allowed to give extreme amounts of money to campaign, which casts a huge spotlight on the wealthier candidate. Campaign finance laws are necessary to give a diverse set of candidates a fair chance at winning. In conclusion, campaign finance laws are essential in protecting democracy against the pressure of large amounts of money from institutions and from wealthy individuals.
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