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Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) Campaign finance became a big issue in 2001, this was mainly caused by several scandals at that time and the campaign for the presidency of McCain in 2000. These scandals were the Tyco scandal, Global Crossing scandal, and the Enron scandal, those had a great impact on the financial landscape in the US. (Gitell, Seth.) This act is also known as the McCain-Feingold act because McCain and Feingold initiated the bill in the Senate. The act is mainly focused on the reduction of special interest influence. Title 1 of the bill states that indirect contributions made tough national committees of political parties were prohibited in the future. Furthermore, it prohibited to spend any funds that are not subject to hard money statutory restrictions and reporting requirements. ‘Electioneering communications’ became also more restricted by the fact that this act broadened coordination expenditure rules.The term ‘electioneering communications’ is defined in the act as:”any broadcast, cable, or satellite communication which-(I) refers to a clearly identified candidate for Federal office; (II) is made within (aa) 60 days before a general, special, or runoff election for the office sought by the candidate; or (bb) 30 days before a primary or preference election, or a convention or caucus of a political party that has authority to nominate a candidate, for the office sought by the candidate; and (III) in the case of a communication which refers to a candidate for an office other than President or Vice President, is targeted to the relevant electorate.” (H.R. 2356) The fine of breaking this law was $10,000 for anyone who contributed to producing and airing the communication. Corporations and labor unions were also prohibited to make use of electioneering communications, with the exception of non-profit organizations. But only as long as the communication was paid exclusively by the fund of citizens, nationals, or permanent residents of the U.S.Furthermore, the act contains a provision which required clear identification of the sponsor of a certain election-related advertisement. So if an advertisement is sponsored by a person other than the candidate or person authorized by this candidate, it must contain a statement which indicates who is responsible for it. The millionaires’ amendment was probably one of the most controversial provisions of this act. Since it was believed that more wealthy candidates would enjoy more advantages from this act, the millionaires’ amendment entailed restrictions to mitigate those advantages. It contained detailed rules relaxing contributions limits to a candidate depending on the level of self-funding by the candidates’ opponent. (H.R. 2356)The act had quite a lot of success in cutting out the use of soft money by political parties. Soft money is defined as a contribution made to a certain political party. This can be used for every purpose, except directly attempting to elect a favored candidate. The benefit of soft money is that parties can raise an unlimited amount of money since it is not regulated by the federal government. However, they cannot use the money for advertisements focused on a specific candidate.  (Wilson, James Q.) Section 527 organizations, in particular, became prominent in the political process. These are tax-exempt organizations organized under section 527 of the US internal revenue code. They are created primarily to influence the selection, election, nomination or defeat of candidates. However, they may not expressly advocate for specific candidates. These organizations became popular because instead of political party soft money sources, they were funded primarily by large contributions from individuals. The presidential elections in 2004 were largely affected by the section 527 organizations, where approximately 175 million was raised for presidential election campaigns. However, this changed with the presidential elections in 2008. Both the Democrats as the Republicans had reduced their reliance on section 527 organizations. They shifted towards the dependence on hard money, which is directly specified to a candidate. There were some reasons that the parties found new ways to use hard money. For example, there was more focus on grassroots fundraising activities. A grassroots movement is a movement which uses the people in a certain area as the basis of a political movement, so its bottom-upwards instead of top-down decision making. Furthermore, the internet was also used more extensively to raise money for campaigns. Despite the fact that it was mostly small money donations, it helped to raise an extensive amount of funds for their campaigns. At last, both the Democrats as the Republicans made use of so-called bundlers. These are individuals which are identified with the campaign that collect individual donations. Since the BCRA act increased the limit of donations to political parties, they had to use this third party as an exploit. In this way they could raise money for their campaign, but not with limitations of the act. (Matthew A. Melone)?Citizens United vs. FEC Citizens United, a non-profit corporation with an annual budget of approximately 12 million, released Hillary: The movie in January 2008. This movie was focused on the sole reason of criticising Hillary Clinton. She was a candidate of the Democratic party presidential elections at that time. This movie was broadcasted and largely promoted all over the country. The problem, however, was that the broadcasting of this movie was within the thirty days of the presidential elections, which was prohibited according to the McCain-Feingold act. As earlier mentioned, any broadcast communication which clearly identifies a candidate for an election within 30 days is prohibited. Citizens United feared that their movie conflicted with this legislation, and therefore they sought declaratory and injunctive relief against the FEC, where they noted that the act was unconstitutional. The district court denied this request and ruled that the act was constitutional and that this could also be applied to Hillary: The movie and all the advertisements about this movie. However, in 2009 the Supreme Court requested from both parties, Citizens United and the FEC, that they filed supplemental briefs whether the court should overrule the act of McCain-Feingold.  (Matthew A. Melone), (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission). In the Supreme Court, in short, it came down to the sole question whether the First Amendment had any right to prohibit corporations from engaging in political speech. The First Amendment states: ” Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”  (LII Staff,) The court ruling was that corporations were free in spending money on electioneering communications and therefore, it overruled the McCain-Feingold’s act. Furthermore, it also overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which stated that corporations were prohibited to use treasury money to oppose or support candidates in elections. Basically, corporations were after this case free to spend money on both, to advocate for the election of candidates, as on spending money on electioneering communications. The motivation was that the First Amendment did not allow the prohibition of corporations to use their right of free speech since its forbidden to distinguish between the identity of the speaker. Furthermore, for corporations, it is necessary to spend money to speak effectively on political issues, so its unconstitutional to prohibit this. The court overruled the Austin case on a couple of points because of several reasonings. They argued that the government had nothing to say in deciding if large expenditures from corporations affected people’s perception. The people have a right that all possible information is available and that they can decide for themselves if it is reliable or not. ‘there is no such thing as too much speech”. Furthermore, the reasoned that the First Amendment purposely keeps the government from interfering in freedom of speech. So it is not the role of the legislature to decide if a certain speech is fair or not. At last, the court did not overrule everything. They found that the provisions which required that the founder of advertisements disclosed himself were valid. They argued that people could give proper weight to different speakers and make informed decisions since this provision leads to transparency. Furthermore, the court also didn’t change the prohibition of direct contributions to candidate campaigns form corporations. (LII Staff,) The decision of the Supreme Court caused a lot of discussion and was quite controversial. In this part, we are going to discuss what the impact of the ruling was. Since Citizens United eliminated the final extant prohibition on independent corporate political speech, it provoked a lot of fury. Most of this was driven by anticipated actions of entities with an extraordinary amount of wealth. Basically, the ruling cleared the way for unlimited spending on elections by corporations. However, in practice most of the money which was used for elections came from newly emerged groups, called super ‘PACs’. These are independent-expenditure only committees, but names as Political Action Committees. These groups can raise funds from anybody, so also from corporations, without any legal limit. They cannot make any contributions to candidates or parties, however, they are allowed to spend as much money as they like on politics independent of the campaigns. Furthermore, it is important to note that not only the Citizens United act made the creation of super PACs legally possible, but also another judicial decision. This was sentenced two months later, v FEC. This case noted what we earlier mentioned, that PACs which didn’t make direct contributions to candidates could accept unlimited donations. This ruling was needed to create super PACs, because before Speechnow there was still a limit of $5000 per year on the amount that a person could donate to a third party group, such as a Super PAC, to make independent expenditures in federal elections. The first presidential elections after Citizens United v FEC was in 2012. In those elections, the Super PACs started to play a major role. For example, the Super PACs spend more money on campaigns than the Republicans did.  (Timothy Noah) The major complaint about Super PACs is that they are mainly focused on negative advertisements, which totally changed the way of elections. Since it is now a lot harder for an objective and indecisive voter to choose between candidates. Data shows that most of the money a Super PAC spends, 72 percent, goes to negative advertisement of the opposite candidate. (T.W. Farnam) However, despite all the fear that rose after Citizens United for corporations to dominate the democracy in the United States, most money which was donated to Super PACS didn’t come from corporations, but from wealthy individuals. There was a lot of discussion whether corporate speech would overwhelm the democratic system build for individual voters. As we see now, the impact is not that radical as was expected. Of course, this doesn’t change anything about the fact that the Citizens United acts had a negative impact on the elections in the US. But the discussions changes now from the impact of corporations on the democracy to the impact of wealthy citizens. (Levitt, Justin) On top of that, one can even argue that lifting the spending bans on elections did not influence the election rates significantly. It was found by Raymond that laws which ban spending on elections have a minimal impact. (Raja, Raymond J. La,) They argue this by noting that a certain candidate can raise money from several sources which diminish the effect of each particular money source which wants to influence a candidate. So it would be hard for a corporation to spend a large amount of money to change the elections. Furthermore, another explanation for the argument that money doesn’t influence elections significantly could be that several groups neutralize each other. When one side of a political interest group seems to do well, the rivals tend to follow this trend. Despite these counter arguments saying that the effect of Citizens United is not that big, the increase of the amount of money which is spent on elections increased every election so far. This is a negative trend since the focus of elections should be about which candidate has the best ideas for the country and not which one has the best promotion. (Raja, Raymond J. La,)

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