Campaign Finance and the Influence of Money in American Politics (2000)

Campaign finance reform is the political effort in the United States to change the involvement of money in politics, primarily in political campaigns.

Although attempts to regulate campaign finance by legislation date back to 1867, the first successful attempts nationally to regulate and enforce campaign finance originated in the 1970s. The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) of 1972 required candidates to disclose sources of campaign contributions and campaign expenditures. It was amended in 1974 with the introduction of statutory limits on contributions, and creation of the Federal Election Commission (FEC). It attempted to restrict the influence of wealthy individuals by limiting individual donations to ,000 and donations by political action committees (PACs) to ,000. These specific election donations are known as ‘hard money.’ The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002, also known as “McCain-Feingold”, after its sponsors, is the most recent major federal law on campaign finance, which revised some of the legal limits on expenditures set in 1924, and prohibited unregulated contributions (commonly referred to as “soft money”) to national political parties. ‘Soft money’ also refers to funds spent by independent organizations that do not specifically advocate the election or defeat of candidates, and funds which are not contributed directly to candidate campaigns.

In early 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited pursuant to the right of these entities to free speech.

In response to the Occupy Wall Street protests and the worldwide occupy movement calling for U.S. campaign finance reform eliminating corporate influence in politics, among other reforms, Representative Ted Deutch introduced the “Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy” (OCCUPIED) constitutional amendment on November 18, 2011.[27][28] The OCCUPIED amendment would outlaw the use of for-profit corporation money in U.S. election campaigns and give Congress and states the authority to create a public campaign finance system.[29] Unions and non-profit organizations will still be able to contribute to campaigns.[30] On November 1, 2011, Senator Tom Udall also introduced a constitutional amendment in Congress to reform campaign finance which would allow Congress and state legislatures to establish public campaign finance.[31] Two other constitutional campaign finance reform amendments were introduced in Congress in November, 2011.[32] Similar amendments have been advanced by Dylan Ratigan,[33] Karl Auerbach,[34] Cenk Uygur through Wolf PAC,[35] and others.[36][37]

Harvard law professor and Creative Commons board member Lawrence Lessig had called for a constitutional convention[38] in a September 24–25, 2011 conference co-chaired by the Tea Party Patriots’ national coordinator,[39] in Lessig’s October 5 book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress – and a Plan to Stop It,[40] and at the Occupy protest in Washington, DC.[41] Reporter Dan Froomkin said the book offers a manifesto for the Occupy Wall Street protestors, focusing on the core problem of corruption in both political parties and their elections,[42] and Lessig provides credibility to the movement.[43] Lessig’s initial constitutional amendment would allow legislatures to limit political contributions from non-citizens, including corporations, anonymous organizations, and foreign nationals, and he also supports public campaign financing and electoral college reform to establish the one person, one vote principle.[44] Lessig’s web site allows anyone to propose and vote on constitutional amendments.[45] On October 15, the Occupy Wall Street Demands Working Group, published the 99 Percent Declaration[46] of demands, goals, and solutions, including a call to amend the U.S. Constitution to reform campaign finance.[47][48][49] Occupy movement protesters have joined the call for a constitutional amendment.