Research Paper on Campaign Finance Reform

I. Introduction
Campaign Finance Reform is the political effort in the United States declared to change money involvement in political campaigns in order to provide fairness of elections.

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002 (also known as “McCain-Feingold” or “Shays-Meehan”, after its sponsors), the recent federal law on campaign finance, revised some of the limitations set in 1974, and prohibited unregulated contributions and spending by independent organizations in favor of candidates (“soft money”) and put limitations on political advertising.

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While declared goal of the Campaign Finance Reform appears to be upright, its norms in fact conceal threat to constitutional freedoms, gives benefits to certain groups and has number of unintended harmful consequences.

II. Support for Campaign Finance Reform
Advocates of the Campaign Finance Reform build their argument on the fact that election process requires significant funds. They appeal that such expenditures are unreasonable and, moreover, imply corruption and/or rise disparity of candidates resulting from availability of funds for them. As Kobrak (2002) notes, “The historically unprecedented amounts in congressional and presidential contributions are incurring a disturbing number of obligations to contributors” (p. 138). This argument mostly advocates ban of the “soft money”, indirect donations made to political parties or candidates, which are used for activities on their behalf.

Another focus for the reform advocates were so called “issue ads”, ads appealing for specific cause or issue created by nonprofit organizations and had no limitations regarding raising money and often said to be another form of “soft money” donation. These issue ads were often used to attack or support certain candidates.

III. Criticism of Campaign Finance Reform
Speculation on Expenditures

One of the starting points for Campaign Reform Advocates is “enormous spendings”. In fact, campaigns are not particularly costly, according to Smith (2001) with the total spending every two years on congressional campaigning amounting to roughly the cost of one home video rental per eligible voter (p. 63). At the same time Smith (2001) references to studies results which indicate that higher spending is beneficial for public knowledge of candidates and issues, without eroding public faith in government (Ch.3 pp. 39-64). Moreover, campaign expenditures could not be considered wasted, as they are used to purchase professional services and products, correspondingly rising demand for these goods, which ultimately means additional workplaces and incomes for households.

Financing Restriction Impedes Equality
Restrictions regarding “soft money” were supposed to support political equality, limiting funding benefits to those who support certain interest groups or simply possess good entrepreneur skills. However it is overlooked, that the incumbent typically starts with many built-in advantages, ranging from the free media attention he or she gets while in office, to the opportunity to use the office to provide constituency service, to the fact that the incumbent was popular enough to win the last election; these advantages contribute to, and are typically reinforced by, the incumbent’s superior ability to raise campaign money (Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Special Commission on Campaign Finance Reform., 2000, p. 91). At the same time challengers need invest additional funds in order to get the same coverage. For example, in the 1994 U.S. House elections, many incumbents won while spending considerably less than their opponents.” (Corrado, Mann, Ortiz, Potter, & Sorauf, 1997, p. 107) Moreover, money has declining marginal utility, meaning that the more money has been already spent, the less value gives the next dollar spent. Therefore the problem with money involvement into politics is not that candidates may “buy”, but that the limitations in funding may prevent their opponents to raise enough funds to reach the mass of voters.

Freedom of Speech
Major drawback of the Campaign Finance Reform is that it infringes on free speech, violating rights set out in the First Amendment. The free speech clause of the First Amendment guarantees that people have the right to express their political views. Therefore, according to the First Amendment, people has write to advocate for or against candidates and laws restricting a content or an amount of such expression (including advertising) conflict with freedom of political speech guaranteed by constitution. While issue ads attacking a candidate may affect his odds of being elected, and such advertising may be run intentionally for the benefit of his opponent, it could not be considered unfair unless it contains groundless accusation. In any case, groundless accusations should be subject of legal norms outside of the scope of the campaign regulations and should not be remedied by limiting freedom of speech.

Legal Complexity
Another issue with Campaign Finance Reform is that it makes campaign financing excessively complicated. This fact impedes political equality preventing those who can not afford costly professional legal and accounting support from participation. At the same wealthy candidates not only benefit from reduced competition, but also may exploit legal loopholes to further diminish competitiveness of the election process.

IV. Conclusion
As Sanderson (2008) summarizes in his article, campaign finance laws may do more harm than help to democratize political process. While advocates of Campaign Finance Reform build their argumentation on false premises that involvement of money should be limited, actions offered bring often controversial effects.

Due to declining marginal utility the problem of equality is not as much in their excessive funds of one candidate, but rather in possible scarce financing of his opponents. Therefore ban for “soft money” and “issue ads” may raise inequality, especially to the benefit of the incumbents. Moreover the Campaign Finance Reform infringes constitutional writes of political expression, raising doubts regarding democratic purposes of this reform.

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