Campaign Finance Reforms
There has been a close link between money and politics in the United States of America from the time elections started. To some, there can be no power without money and no money without power. During the 1700s only male landowners who had exceeded 21 years of age were eligible to vie for any political post. The system was organized this way to ensure that only those who had money and wealth had their say in the political affairs of the states. As a result, elections were often marred with massive irregularities and corruption. Cases of voters being persuaded to vote for or against a candidate by use of money were on at an all time high.
The first case of financial campaign was during the elections of 1828 when the mass media and newspapers were used to generate publicity and to spread propaganda. Twenty years later, history repeated itself when Abraham Lincoln used his own money to fund his political ambitions. This move nearly rendered him bankrupt. Close friends also donated money to ensure that his campaign was well oiled (Robert and Alice).
According to the Woodhock Theological Center, the political funding became a trend where wealthy families could fund political campaigns and return favors once those they had supported ascended into power. Although money is important in helping pass important message to the voters that will help them in making a correct decision during the decision making process, there should be a limitation on the amount of funding. Corporate funding should not be tolerated as it encourages special interest decisions.
Gill and Lipsmeyer urgue that the first laws for regulating elections campaigns were enacted in the year 1867, when the Navy appropriation act was passed. It was aimed at restricting the civil servants from soliciting campaign funds from navy workers. In the year 1872, the level of campaign funding had reached an unprecedented high. Wealthy Democrats contributed $10,000 each in support of their candidates. Ulysses Grant had nearly a quarter of its funding from a single donor. It became clear that the elected had a bigger obligation to those who had oiled their campaign wheels (Gill and Lipsmeyer).
Corporations soon got into the act leading to an outcry by politicians such as Teddy Roosevelt. In 1905, he proposed a law in which corporations were to be restricted from financing election campaigns. This proposition was met with intense resistance from the wealthy and politicians themselves. It became clear that money was an active ingredient during the decision making process. As Gill and Lipsmeyer note, the wealthy through their money could meddle with legislation process for they had played a key role in the elections of the lawmakers. In as much as men of wealth continued to meddle with the American political system, an edict restricting corporates and banks from making direct contributions or endorsement was made. It came to be in the year 1907.
The Tillman bill was well drafted, however, due to poor implementations; there was not much change in countering the impact that money had on politics. In spite of all these, it ushered a new era of modern campaign laws. It is common for political campaigns to set audacious fundraising targets that will surpass those set by the previous cycle. It is mythical thought that having a well-funded campaign than your opponent always comes up with competitive advantage (Robert and Alice). Having greater financial muscles than your opponent does not guarantee a win, however with the nature of politics today, it does increase the probability of winning.
The Bipartisan campaign reform act, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold act, made the contribution field for elections campaign to only focus on a limited class of wealthy individuals. The bill was the first significant overhaul of federal campaign financial laws since the post-Water gate scandal era. Campaign reform laws continue to face resistance in courts and the American government is trying its best to avoid these situations (Robert and Alice).
A proposition was made in which members of the public are to be issued with a $50 dollar voucher that will be donated to a campaign of their choice. The aspirants are also made to declare their wealth to ensure that whatever they amass during the campaign and their tenure is only ascertainable. Campaign reforms should be passed and made tighter for every political party fielding a candidate (Center).
Taking the case of a chemical corporation, if the laws were not tighter, they would go for a candidate who promises to oblige and give in to their demands. This would be at the expense of the safety and desires of the public. This is also due to the fact that chemical corporations have more funds to donate than the GDP of the communities that will be affected by the draconian laws that propagate impunity (Robert and Alice).
In the future, there should be better laws regulating on the amount of money that should be spent on a campaign process. This will ensure that political parties, regardless of their financial masculinity, are made to operate on a common ground. The major challenge in the implementation of this proposition is that not all political parties that spend huge chunks of money violate the laws; some use the money to ensure that they are able to sell their manifestoes to the public (Gill and Lipsmeyer). Restricting the amount of money they spend, might limit their coverage of information. Moreover, a measure to counter political funding can help avert corruption and impunity, which comes with changing hands.
Center, Woodstock Theological. The Ethics of Lobbying: Organized Interests, Political Power, and the Common Good . Georgetown University Press, 2008.
Gill, David and Christine Lipsmeyer. Soft Money and Hard Choices: Why Political Parties Might Legislate Against Soft Money Donations. Public Choice. New York: Prime Time press, 2007.
Robert, Kaiser and Crites Alice. “How lobbying became Washington’s biggest business – Big money creates a new capital city. As lobbying booms, Washington and politics are transformed.” Citizen K Street (The Washington Post). (2007): n.p.