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Campaign Finance Reform topic paper
Scott Segal agreed to let me post this. He asked that I make it clear
that this is a work in progress, and more will be forthcoming.
By the way, that concern I had about us not having enough good, viable
topic proposals to make a meaningful choice is hereby retracted. We've
got a ton of good options.
Topic Paper: ALL ROADS LEAD TO CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
Already this year, we have seen much debate regarding the necessity of
addressing foreign policy issues in a debate resolution; also
persuasively, it has been argued that social issues such as civil rights
should be addressed. Given the limited political and financial capital
at the disposal of the federal government, issues at both ends of the
spectrum face an initial hurdle: the attention span of the White House
and the Congress. Many argue that this attention span is a function of
the unfortunate mechanism by which the United States funds political
campaigns. As the argument goes, the less important campaign finance
becomes to federal officeholders, the more those officeholders will be
responsive to public policy concerns and the less beholden such
officeholders will be to special interest.
Why now? The System is Near "Total Meltdown"
Even a cursory examination of the news media shows a number of key
events that have placed campaign finance reform ("CFR") front and
center. These include: record-setting "soft money" fundraising by both
political parties in the last election; the problem of self- funded
candidates (e.g., Perot and Forbes); fund-raising from foreign sources
(e.g., the Lippo Group or mainland China); independent expenditures
(e.g., labor unions, business groups, environmental organizations, and
other special interest groups). These issues led the pack, but the
hearty perennials, such as political action committee ("PAC") funding,
electronic disclosure, public funding and the like were also being
debated. Perhaps CFR is a topic whose time has finally come. To wit:
Claude Marx writing in Investors Business Daily in 1997: (1/21)
"Campaign finance reform has drawn new life from allegations of
Democratic abuses in the last campaign. The current system is 'broken
badly,' says an author of a leading reform plan. It's reached a point of
'total meltdown,' says Rep. Chris Shays, R- Conn. In addition, Capitol
Hill Republicans plan hearings, and any shocking news from them may help
push a bill through."
Dispelling the need for additional study is the CQ Researcher in 1996:
(Camp. Fin. Ref., 2/9)
"'What we need is not more study of the problem of money and politics in
Washington,' [Cong. Linda] Smith wrote in The New York Times in
November. 'What we need is to end the problem.' Lobbying groups that
have pushed for tougher laws on campaign finances echo the refrain. 'The
American people are deeply concerned about this issue,' says Ann
McBride, president of the citizens' group Common Cause. 'They understand
that their voices can't compete with the increasing influence of money
on Capitol Hill.'"
The fact of the recent elections -- with all its problems -- makes the
issue timely. Business Week writes in 1997: ("Don't Blow This Chance,
"The excesses of the 1996 election are the best opportunity to clean up
the electoral system--and bring back voters who have increasingly
boycotted it. The first step is a full and fair hearing of what happened
in the past election. The next step must be action and campaign-finance
And the on-going Thompson hearings -- starting soon and continuing
throughout the next year -- will provide new and on- going impetus for
CFR. Why? Because as the 1998 mid-term elections approach, Congress will
be under pressure to act. The same source continues:
"When the history of the 105th Congress is written, it will likely
record that an ambitious onetime actor, Senator Fred Thompson (R-
Tenn.), and a small group of moderate GOP senators preserved the
integrity of their party and the institution in which they serve. But
just barely, and just before the public's contempt for the money-
politics scandal engulfing Washington turned to complete revulsion-
-and perhaps a dangerous backlash. Under heavy pressure from the
moderates, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), reversed
position. He will now allow Thompson to conduct a broad probe of both
illegal and improper campaign fund-raising practices, including ''soft''
money contributions. This provides a final opportunity for politicians
to redeem themselves in the eyes of the people. Both Democrats and
Republicans should take it."
Howard Gleckman supports the same conclusion but with even creamier
rhetoric in 1997: (Campaign Money: Now Everyone is in a Glass House, Bus
"Is this one of those rare Capraesque moments when the voice of the
little guy gets through to Washington? It could be. Senate Governmental
Affairs Committee Chairman Fred Thompson (R- Tenn.) now has broad
latitude to hold hearings that could give the public a glimpse of how
pervasive the money madness is. And this investigation could turn up the
heat for serious reform. That's the last thing Lott and his allies want.
But it is exactly what is needed. The hearings would 'pull back the
curtain on all these questionable practices,' says Bill Hogan, director
of investigative projects at the nonpartisan Center for Public
But don't worry: just because the issue will be in the news with fair
regularity as the 1998 election approaches doesn't mean the topic will
get adopted. Plenty of reasons for cynicism, as Marx continues in 1997:
"The furor over Democrats' fund-raising for President Clinton's re-
election has Washington in a dither over campaign finance. But don't
expect much to be done about it. An indifferent public, competing reform
plans and today's complex system that favors incumbents combine to make
reform unlikely any time soon."
Perfect debate topic: in the news because it has to be, but quite
The Nature of the Current Problem: The Extent of Current Spending
Campaign spending is very high. First, it is widely argued that too much
money is spent in the current system of federal elections. Consider some
of the following:
Robert Rankin observed of presidential races in the Arizona Republic in
1997: (Boradcasters Oppose..., 3/31)
"The president, who is engulfed in controversy over his relentless
efforts to raise campaign money, noted that the major political parties
spent more than three times as much money in the 1995-96 election cycle
as they had four years earlier."
Patrick Pitman of CQ observed of Congressional races in 1995: (CQ
"In the last 20 years, the average amount of money spent to win a House
seat has increased tenfold, according to the non-profit, non- partisan
Center for Responsive Politics. The average price tag of victory in a
'94 House race was $525,728, according to a center analysis. Such
figures translate "into a tremendous amount of time dialing for
dollars," said Joshua Goldstein, the CRP's research director. Steve
Jarding, deputy chief of staff for Senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), also
serves as communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign
Committee which Kerrey chairs. Jarding said that when he began working
in politics in 1978, "You went to 10 campaign events before you went to
a fund-raiser. Today you do a fund-raiser at every campaign event."
In a larger context, lobbying is huge. IBD Washington Bureau Chief John
Merline reported in 1996: (IBD, 7/30)
"Nobody expects these measures to rein in the lobbying industry. As
Armey details, it is on a tremendous growth path. By his calculations:
It's the largest private-sector employer in Washington. If the lobbying
industry - at $8.4 billion in revenue a year - were its own country, it
would have a larger economy than 57 nations. The nation's capital has
three times as many lawyers as all of Japan. It has almost twice as many
law firms as churches."
And the contributors come from ever smaller and less diverse parts of
society. The National Catholic Reporter editorialized in 1996: (Pol Soft
"For a perspective: 99.97 percent of Americans don't make political
contributions of more than $200. But the other .03 percent of the
population does have real political influence. It's their government --
and will remain that way until enough of us get angry enough and kick up
a fuss. Have you had enough?"
Second, the structures in place in the current system seem inadequate.
For one thing, campaign finance restrictions are not taken particularly
seriously. David Rosenbaum wrote in the New York Times in 1996: (In
Political Money Game, ..., 12/26)
"In political circles, campaign finance laws are treated more like
nuisances -- comparable, say, to parking rules -- than like serious
sanctions that must be followed in letter and spirit. 'What was most
extraordinary this year was the way everyone -- Democrats, Republicans,
corporations, unions, everyone -- thumbed their noses at the law,' said
Ellen Miller, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics,
a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that tracks campaign finance
matters. 'The law puts up minimum hurdles,' Ms. Miller continued. 'In
1996, every hurdle was jumped with ease. The parties and the candidates
operated as if there were no regulations whatsoever.'"
Enforcement through the Federal Elections Commission ("FEC") could
apparently be stronger as well. Rosenbaum continues in 1996: (NYT, Id.)
"As an enforcement agency, the Federal Election Commission is basically
toothless. People know that if they cheat on their taxes or participate
in investment scams, they risk being caught and penalized by the
Internal Revenue Service or the Securities and Exchange Commission. No
one is afraid of the election commission. The agency's authority is
limited. And when it does crack down on wrongdoing, the action almost
always comes too late to affect the outcome of the election. For
example, the commission found that Dole's 1988 campaign for the
Republican presidential nomination had committed several serious
violations, including accepting improper corporate contributions and
exceeding spending limits in several important primary states. The case
was finally resolved in 1993, five years after the campaign. The
remnants of the Dole campaign paid a $123,000 fine."
Negative Ground: spending is down and not high enough!
Unlike the beef heard with respect ot other topics, CFR has plenty of
negative ground even on its most elementary premises. For example, while
campaigns are enormously expensive for federal elections, some say
spending is actually down. Marx writes in 1996: (IBD, 2/9)
"In presidential elections, candidates accepting federal funds are
limited in how much they can spend in each state during the primary
season. The limits range from $661,775 to $11.7 million. Individual
contributions cannot exceed $1,000. Federal funds finance each party's
nominating convention and general election campaign. However, those who
do not wish to accept federal funds, like Forbes, do not have to comply
with the spending limits. The campaign finance reform push, though,
flies in the face of recent trends. The 1994 elections, in which
Republicans won control of both houses of Congress, actually saw
spending drop. In 1994, the average cost of winning a House election was
$516,126, a decline from $543,599 in 1992. In 1994, the average cost of
winning a Senate election was $4.6 million, compared to $3.9 million in
1992, according to the Center For Responsive Politics, a Washington-
based research organization.In the general election, Democratic
candidates for the Senate spent a total $116 million and their
Republican counterparts spent $151.2 million, down from the previous
election. So too in the House races. Democratic candidates spent a total
$179.3 million in the general election and GOP candidates spent $148.3
A comparison is frequently made to advertising. Expenditures on
commercial ads dwarf campaign expenditures. Many argue that because
elections are so important, spending to educate the electorate is not to
high if spending on Rolaids is higher. For example, James Pethokoukis
writes in 1995: (IBD, 12/19, Is Enough Spent on Campaigns?)
"'Considering the importance of elections to any democratic society, it
is hard to believe that the expenditure of less than $10 per voter for
all local, state and national campaigns constitutes a crisis requiring
government regulation and limitations on spending,' Smith [of Capital
Univ. Law School] concluded in a recent study for the libertarian Cato
Institute. And compared to other endeavors, elections are low cost.
Smith notes that Americans spent two to three times as much money in
1994 on potato chips. Gingrich struck a similar theme in his testimony.
He pointed out that antacid advertising comes to $300 million a year.
Surely, he said, we should be spending far more on communicating about
the major issues of the day than about products that soothe gastronomic
Senate critics of CFR like Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have made similar
arguments. Marx reports in 1997: (IBD, 1/21, Futility of Camp Reform...)
"No matter, say some skeptics of reform, such as McConnell. He points
out that the amount of money spent on campaigns is dwarfed by what
private firms spend on other forms of promotion. And he says that for
the government to cap donations makes as much sense as limiting what is
spent on advertising."
The Impact of Current Spending
Obviously, the significance that excessive spending has on the political
system cannot be overstated. The "money chase" creates uncomfortable
quid pro quo's for politicians, often forcing them away from decisions
based upon sound public policy rationales. Rosenbaum puts it
matter-of-factly in 1996: (NYT, 12/26) "Large contributors were openly
rewarded with support for the government policies they advocated,
dinners at the White House and seats on international trade missions."
Former Senator Bill Bradley described it this way in 1996: (aqi CQ
"...money has too much influence in Washington and sweeping changes are
needed to reform the system. "Money not only determines who is elected,
it determines who runs for office and it determines what government
accomplishes - or fails to accomplish," Bradley said in a speech last
month at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government."
What is at stake is the transformation of American political culture
from representative democracy to a culture based upon financial might
and exclusion of inconsistent voices. Business Week editorializes on
this transformation in 1997: (BW, 3/17)
"A transparent, rule-governed, competitive economy plays to the
strengths of American culture. Replacing it with guanxi capitalism or
Tammany Hall-style politics would undermine America's competitive edge
and damage growth. This is no way to run a nation, much less lead the
world, and the American public knows it. Chief executives and
entrepreneurs should get behind campaign- finance reform before it
taints them as much as the politicians they are underwriting."
An economy based upon corporate welfare is the result. The same source
"The greater danger is that in financing a corrupt political system,
CEOs and politicians could begin to corrupt the economy as well.
Contracts, not contacts, still define the way most business is done in
America, but that could change. Too much business in big cities used to
revolve around political ties, not the best price or product. This kind
of corruption could happen again at the national level where, say, a
company's competitive advantage could be lost by a simple change in regs
in favor of a rival that makes a large campaign donation to the right
pol. Or a politician, unhappy with one company's contributions, could
mete out punishment by changing tax and regulatory policies. What, after
all, constitutes ''corporate welfare''? These threats are already being
made sotto voce. High- tech research, Export-Import Bank loans, and
other ''subsidies'' for companies not willing to pay to play are on the
short list of items to be cut in the near future."
Although the President has been in the news on this subject lately, it
typifies both parties. Listen to this example regarding the Senate
Majority Leader Trent Lott. Gleckman notes in 1997: (NYT, 3/24)
"What would donors get for their $5,000? Lott couldn't sell a night in
the Lincoln Bedroom, but he could offer access to powerful pols: ''Our
Spring Forum [will] give you plenty of opportunity to share your
personal ideas with some of our top Republican leaders.'' And, Lott
warned, ''by failing to act today, you could lose a unique chance to be
included in current legislative policy debates that will affect
your...business for many years to come.''"
Specific policy areas are disproportionately influenced by the impact of
campaign financing. Consider tax policy. John Merline writes in 1996:
(IBD, 7/30) "But some say such radical tax reform is nearly impossible.
Firms and industries that benefit from the current system will oppose
any change. Congress has a vested interest in keeping the code complex.
After all, those lobbyists bear gifts in the form of campaign cash."
How about health care policy? Merline continues in 1996, demonstrating
that PAC giving rose like a mighty wave to smite the Clinton health care
"Practically every health group -from the Mennonite Mutual Aid
Association to the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental
Medicine -hired lobbyists. PAC giving by health groups rose 13% between
the '92 and '94 election cycles, according to a study by the Center for
Responsive Politics. That was at a time when overall PAC donations were
flat. The American Hospital Association almost doubled its contributions
to candidates in the '94 election cycle, according to Federal Election
Commission data.So did the American Chiropractic Association. In fact,
one in five of the top 50 PACs with the biggest increases in
contributions between '92 and '94 were health-related. ''Whenever you
have such a major issue, such as overhaul of the health- care system,
you have the ability to increase member awareness, concern and
contributions,'' said Steve LaPierre, the chiropractic association's
political director. LaPierre says his group's funding pattern was due,
at least in part, to internal factors as well as the rise and fall of
the Clinton plan. Once the pressure of Clinton's reform plan was off,
PAC money from health groups started to taper off and is actually down
2% this election cycle. By contrast, overall PAC spending is up 12%."
Or perhaps energy and the environment is more your speed. Look at the
example of the use of ethanol as an alternative fuel. Rosenbaum notes in
1996: (NYT, 12/26)
"It is impossible to prove exactly what donors get in return for their
contributions. A direct payoff would clearly be illegal, a violation of
the bribery statutes. The stock answer from politicians and contributors
alike is that all that is expected and all that is returned is better
access to the politicians for the donors. Yet, this answer depends on
believing, for instance, that there is no connection between the
millions of dollars that the Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. and its
chairman, Dwayne Andreas, have donated over the last quarter century to
politicians from both parties and the multibillion- dollar tax break the
government allows for ethanol, one of the company's main products. Rep.
Barney Frank, D-Mass., once put the matter this way, "We are the only
people in the world required by law to take large amounts of money from
strangers and then act as if it has no effect on our behavior."
How about tobacco and gambling if that tickles your fancy. Charles
Babcock and Ira Chinoy wrote in the Washington Post in 1997: (4/13, A1)
"The Democratic National Committee officials channeled millions of
dollars in campaign donations to state Democratic parties last year,
effectively hiding big corporations from tobacco, gambling and other
special interests....Diverting campaign checks to the state parties
allowed the DNC to avoid criticism for accepting contributions from
controversial industries and protected some donors who did not want the
fact or magnitude of their contributions known."
Or even Native American issues. The same source continues: (A18)
"Chippewa spokesman John Hatch said the tribe's large donations to help
Clinton and the Democrats were not motivated by their gambling interests
but by broader issues important to Native Americans. 'After 12 years of
Reagan and Bush trying to zero out Indian budget programs and attacking
our sovereignty, and the growing prominence of a state governor [Engler]
who belongs to the right wing of the Republican Party and who we don't
agree with, we set a limit of $500,000 to make sure that Clinton and the
Democratic Party won big...We got together with the DNC and said, 'Here
you go. How do you want it?''"
The point I am making here regards the potential ground for Affirmative
cases: even if the universe of plans is relatively small (a point I will
dispute later), the potential advantages are large and diverse. Anything
the government can do is influenced by the current system of campaign
finance. Therefore, foreign policy issues and domestic policy issues can
be held hostage to political access. In real terms, the CFR debate
swallows the debate regarding civil rights, Southeast Asia, and other
The Negative Ground on Significance Issues: Campaign Spending is Good.
There is a body of literature which disputes the effect the "quid pro
quo" described above has on politics. The argument goes something like
this: business giving allows businesses to counter the populist tactics
of competing special interests (labor, enviros, etc). Since business
wants predictability, they tend to support moderate positions. If CFR
were to greatly reduce the voice of business in politics, politicians
would be held hostage to the populists -- and the country would spin
into a protectionist spiral. Listen to this 1996 editorial in the
Investors Business Daily, arguing against restrictive CFR proposals:
"If you remove money as a concern in politics, the two sides will still
compete for volunteer labor (unless reformers ban that too) - and that
means playing to passion, to ''populist'' issues that risk causing
economic turmoil. We'll hear more from BOTH extremes on abortion,
affirmative action and quotas, immigration, school prayer, and so on.
And with business shut out, the average politician will be more likely
to favor protectionism, higher taxes on business and capital, and
''socially conscious'' regulation. All these issues, even trade
restrictions, have a place in the public debate. But they've gained in
prominence since 1974, when ''campaign reform'' first sought to limit
business's voice. Those laws aren't the only reason for the shift, but
muzzling one side surely helped shift the debate."
Here's a little more from the same source:
"As much as anything else, business wants political PREDICTABILITY .
Ceaseless change in regulations and tax laws is as frustrating as the
complex rules and high taxes themselves. If business has a smaller
voice, politicians will be more likely to randomly create and destroy
wealth -without even realizing they're doing it."
And, if there is anyone out there not too cynical by this point, money
doesn't necessarily by results anyway. The CQ Researcher reported in
1996: (Camp Fin Ref, 2/9)
"But opponents of more restrictive campaign finance laws contend that
the reform groups exaggerate the power of money to determine election
outcomes. "Money can only get a candidate's message out," Edward H.
Crane III, president of the Canto Institute, told the House Oversight
Committee last November. "There is no guarantee that people will like
what they hear.""
Solutions: Too Many to Name
Many of you are probably thinking that a resolution based upon CFR would
just empower the federal government to limit financial resources to
campaigns -- and that's basically one case. Not so. The literature is
peppered with a range of possible solutions. The best way to begin this
analysis is with the Federal Election Campaign Act ("FECA"), the
controlling federal statute. FECA was passed in 1974, mostly in response
to the excesses of the 1972 Presidential election. However, campaign
finance legislation actually dates back to the Theodore Roosevelt
Administration. Teddy Roosevelt was the first to suggest that direct
corporate contributions should be prohibited. The current law boils down
to three types of limitation:
1. Disclosure. FECA requires PACs, candidate committees, and party
committees to file periodic reports disclosing the money they raise;
2. Contribution limits. FECA places limits on contributions by
individuals and through PACs; and
3. Prohibitions. Direct expenditures in federal elections are prohibited
from corporations, labor organizations, government contractors, and
foreign nationals. Cash contributions in excess of
$100 are banned, as are those made in another person's name.
Corporations and labor organizations, however, may indirectly
participate through so-called "soft" money contributions -- meaning
contributions made to political parties. Also, such groups often engage
in "independent expenditures," essentially issue advertising that is in
reality thinly veiled electioneering.
Affirmative cases could conceivably strengthen any of these above
controls. The exact mechanisms are many, as the CQ Researcher documents
in 1996: (CFR, 2/9)
"The issue is alive on Capitol Hill, however, with dozens of bills
introduced by members of both parties in both the House and the Senate.
Reform groups are pushing companion bills introduced with bipartisan
support in both chambers. The two measures would either ban PACs
altogether - a constitutionally dubious proposition - or substantially
lower the contribution limits for PACs and individuals in congressional
races. They also provide for spending limits in congressional races tied
to reduced-cost broadcast advertising and mailings."
Let's get specific. Here is a listing of potential CFR alternatives
(along with their popularity among givers) that appeared as part of a
Business Week/Harris poll in the March 31, 1997 Business Week: (edited
by Keith Hammond)
HOW TO REFORM
Do you favor or oppose...
FAVOR OPPOSE DON'T KNOW
Increasing the $1,000 limit on 61% 37% 2%
how much money individuals can
give to candidates, while imposing
stricter disclosure requirements
Increasing the $5,000 limit on 25% 74% 1%
how much money political action
committees of corporations, labor
unions, and other special interest
groups can give
Eliminating PAC contributions 33% 63% 4%
Ending unlimited "soft money" 68% 30% 2%
contributions to political
parties by corporations and other
Encouraging individual giving 49% 49% 2%
through tax credits for contributions
Replacing private giving with 37% 60% 3%
financing of campaigns
Requiring TV and radio stations 56% 43% 1%
to provide candidates free air time
We can examine some of these in greater detail. Notice however that
there is no problem with adequate ground among the alternatives. Indeed,
the prominent schools of thought go in categorically opposite
directions. Some think less limitation opens the field for challengers;
the traditionalists argue that money corrupts and should be limited. In
this way, the CFR debate is not altogether different from the discourse
on controlled substances.
Taking the traditional approaches discussed above in FECA, let's look at
some case examples:
The basic problem with disclosure is that contributions may be given in
close proximity to the votes they are expected to influence. However,
reporting obligations are quarterly -- thus making it difficult to
expose potential quid pro quo's. Technology however would allow almost
instantaneous electronic disclosure -- a real deterrent. The FEC is
already trying to do this on a voluntary basis, but is likely to fail.
Rosenbaum writes in 1996: (NYT, 12/26) "Starting next year, the agency
will ask candidates voluntarily to file required data on their campaign
contributions on computer disks so that the public can gain access in a
more timely fashion. Scott Thomas, a commissioner at the agency, said he
had no confidence that there would be many takers. 'Our fear,' Thomas
said, 'is that there won't be many candidates who are anxious to stick
their necks out there.' The commission does not have the authority to
require electronic disclosures or to issue injunctions to stop actions
that are obviously against the law. "
Disclosure cases are less effective than direct prohibitions, but are
more constitutional in that the Supreme Court has ruled that giving to
campaigns is a protected form of political expression (see below). IBD
editorialized in 1996: (11/12)
"The Supreme Court has also found many of these limits to be
unconstitutional: They limit free political speech. A far better answer
is to ask all politicians to disclose just where their campaign money
comes from, and then to justify it to the voters. That requirement is
plainly constitutional, simpler to enforce and fair to all."
Here is the case for greater restrictions on contributions: slowing down
the pace of fundraising levels the playing field for challengers, and
thereby keeps the whole system more honest. Pethokoukis describes the
analysis in 1995: (IBD, 12/19)
"But slowing the money chase would also shrink the influence of 'special
interests' on Congress, traditional reformers contend. In short, this
approach holds that private money is the root of all political evil. The
less of it, the better. Current proposed legislation is more or less
within that philosophical tradition. Rep. Linda Smith, R- Wash., and
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have introduced bills that would set
voluntary campaign spending limits in return for free and discounted
television time and reduced postage rates. 'The only way we are going to
level the playing field (for challengers) is through restraints on
spending rather than encouraging incentives to increase spending,'
McCain said. 'The battles should be over ideas, not over bucks.'"
Here is the libertarian critiques of greater limits, just to show you
the nature of the debate. IBD notes in 1996: (11/12)
"So long as government actively wields vast power over private
companies, the payoff also will be vast for the few firms that figure
out how to influence government decisions. Forcing the 'dialogue'
underground just guarantees that government-industry relations will turn
on special- interest favors rather than on principled compromise."
Arguably, the greatest number of cases springing from the typology
currently present in FECA deals with specific prohibitions. Most of
these cases deal with "soft" money or independent expenditures as
described above. For example, conservatives argue bitterly that labor
unions have abused their sacred trust by spending member- dues on
independent expenditures as they did in the last election cycle. IBD
describes this case in 1996: (Id)
"... business giving is not very partisan. It favors Republicans because
-the GOP's principles are more pro-business. But
Democrats are hardly shut out, as President Clinton can attest. Even
holding Congress, the GOP got only about 60% of this year's business
pie. Big labor, by contrast, gives more than 95% to Democrats - even
though a third of the union vote goes to the GOP. Why not start reform
with new laws to guard those workers' constitutional right not to pay
the political part of their dues?"
Another approach would be to carefully scrutinize the foreign
contributions provision in existing law. The current scandal regarding
communist China and Indonesian giving put this case on the front burner.
Rebecca Carr wrote in 1997: (CQ Monitor, 3/11)
"Amidst the daily swirl of media reports documenting questionable
campaign fundraising practices, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman
Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, said today that the worst problem is foreign
influence on campaigns."
Frank James, writing the Chicago Tribune, describes the current laws in
1996: (CT, 10/21 at 4)
"Under current rules, foreigners who are legal U.S. residents can donate
money to candidates. In fact, Dole has received such donations himself.
U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies also can make contributions, if
the money was earned in the United States."
Presumably, these restrictions could be strengthened. And if you don't
think you could debate Southeast Asia on the CFR topic, consider linkage
cards like this. David Jackson in 1996: (Chi Trib, 10/16 at 1)
"Scott Reed on Tuesday questioned whether the money had been illegally
funneled from other Indonesian sources who bought influence in the
administration. Reed suggested that the donations were given so Clinton
would ignore human rights violations in East Timor, a former Portuguese
colony incorporated into Indonesia in 1976."
Granted, Reed was Dole's campaign manager, but you get the point.
The cases discussed above essentially derive from the strengthening of
existing restrictions within FECA. But, as the BW/Harris options above
suggest, there are other approaches.
Public Financing. Simply put, if the taxpayers foot the bill for
campaigns, then candidates will not be overly influenced by
contributions. Most proposals do not pay for elections outright, but use
the carrot of public financing as an inducement to limit contributions.
For example, expanded public finance might be offered to induce
candidates to limit the amount of fundraising, the amount of money from
sources outside their district or state, or the amount of their own
money put in the race.
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