Campaign finance law
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Campaign Finance Law. AP Government and Politics Chapter 8: Wilson. Homework: Read Wilson , (200-220) and take notes Read Woll , Buckley vs. Valeo , and “ The Presidency and Political Parties”. Campaign Finance…. Politics and money go together like… Why? Why regulate?

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Campaign Finance Law

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Campaign finance law

Campaign Finance Law

AP Government and Politics

Chapter 8: Wilson


Read Wilson, (200-220) and take notes

ReadWoll, Buckley vs. Valeo, and “The Presidency and Political Parties”

Campaign finance

Campaign Finance…

  • Politics and money go together like…

    • Why?

  • Why regulate?

    • Perceived corruption in government due to the influence of money

  • Conflicting values

Campaign finance pendulum

Campaign Finance Pendulum

  • The major distinction that has been made by the courts and laws dealing with campaign finance has been between donations/contributions and expenditures.

    • To put it simply, donations/contributions can be limited, but expenditures can mostly not…

  • FECA –towards limits

  • Buckley – away from limits

  • Austin – towards limits

  • BCRA – continue with limits/new limits

  • McConnell – continue with limits

  • CitizensUnited – swing away from limits

Feca 1971 and 1974

FECA (1971 and 1974)

  • Attempt to enact comprehensive regulations on the way American campaigns for Congress and President are conducted.

    • Dealt primarily with how money is raised and spent

  • Four dominant issues

    • Size of contributions to campaigns

    • Sources of contributions

    • Disclosure of campaign financial information

    • Public financing of campaigns

  • Created the FEC

  • Requires every candidate to establish a committee to report contributions and expenditures

    • Every donor or expenditure over $100

  • Creates voluntary program on IRS tax form to fund public financing of campaigns

  • Continued pre-existing bans on contributions by corporations and labor unions

    • Created new limits on other sources of funding, including individual contributions to candidates (people, PAC’s, other groups)

Buckley vs valeo 1976

Buckleyvs. Valeo(1976)

  • The first case to challenge virtually every part of FECA

    • In order for government limit the free speech that is campaign contributions and expenditures, it must prove that

      • It’s actions are justified by a particularly compelling reason, and;

      • That the law is narrowly tailored to suit that purpose

        • Only government interest the Court has found acceptable is the “need to prevent actual or apparent corruption” in the political process

  • Supreme Court struck down several parts of FECA

    • Ends limits on how much of their own money a candidate could spend

    • Narrowed the ban on corporations/unions by banning “express advocacy” only, but can stillfocus on “political and policy issues” so that they are still part of the discussion

      • Left prohibitions on corporate/union donations and spending

    • This leaves open the door for parties to solicit and gather “soft money” contributions from any source

      • Used for “grassroots” and get-out-the-vote initiatives since these are not directed towards any particular candidate

Austin vs michigan chamber of commerce 1990

Austin vs. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990)

  • Case which tested the constitutionality of a Michigan campaign finance law that prohibited corporations from using treasury money for independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates in elections for state offices

    • However, if a corporation set up an independent fund designated solely for political purposes, it could make such expenditures.

  • The challenge to this law was based on the First and Fourteenth amendments

  • The Court ruled that the law was constitutional

    • It held that that “corporate wealth can unfairly influence elections”;

    • and because of the fact that the law still permitted corporations to make contributions/expenditures from a separate fund

Bcra 2002

BCRA (2002)

  • A campaign finance reform bill passed in 2002

    • Known as McCain-Feingold, or Shays-Meehan in the House

  • Provisions

    • Banned “soft money” – unlimited contributions made to parties for “party-building activities.”

    • Redefined “express advocacy” to ban “electioneering communications” by corporations/labor unions

      • “electioneering communications” – ads that name a federal candidate within 30 days of primary or 60 days of general election

    • Prohibited minors from making political contributions

    • Raised individual contribution limits –

      • From $1000 to $2000, then adjusted for inflation.

Mcconnell vs fec 2003

McConnell vs. FEC (2003)

  • Challenge to the BCRA

  • Supreme Court upholds most provisions of the BCRA

    • “electioneering communications” provision

    • “soft money” ban

    • New limits on contributions

  • Overturned the ban on minors contributions to candidates

    • “money, like water, will always find an outlet”; therefore, regulations will continue to be needed.

Current campaign donation limits

Current Campaign Donation Limits

Contribution limits are adjusted for inflation each odd-numbered year

Citizens united vs fec 2010

Citizens United vs. FEC (2010)

Facts of the Case: 

  • Citizens United sought an injunction against the Federal Election Commission in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to prevent the application of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) to its film Hillary: The Movie. The Movie expressed opinions about whether Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a good president.

  • In an attempt to regulate "big money" campaign contributions, the BCRA applies a variety of restrictions to "electioneering communications." Section 203 of the BCRA prevents corporations or labor unions from funding such communication from their general treasuries. Sections 201 and 311 require the disclosure of donors to such communication and a disclaimer when the communication is not authorized by the candidate it intends to support.


  • 1) Do the BCRA's disclosure requirements impose an unconstitutional burden when applied to electioneering requirements because they are protected "political speech" and not subject to regulation as "campaign speech"?

  • 2) If a communication lacks a clear plea to vote for or against a particular candidate, is it subject to regulation under the BCRA

    **Should a feature length documentary about a candidate for political office be treated like the advertisements at issue in McConnell and therefore be subject to regulation under the BCRA?

Speechnow vs fec

Speechnowvs. FEC

  • The five-justice majority in Citizens United ruled that corporations and labor unions may spend their own money to support or oppose political candidates through things like TV ads.

    • The decision did not disturb prohibitions on corporate contributions to candidates, and it did not address whether the government could regulate contributions to groups that make independent expenditures.

  • This case, concerning 527s, was brought by, which said it wanted to raise money to produce advertising to back candidates who supported the First Amendment. The group sued the Federal Election Commission, saying that limits on annual contributions from individuals were unconstitutional.

  • In the 9-0 opinion, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit cited the Supreme Court’s threshold for campaign finance in ”preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption. “ and said that “Citizens United had foreclosed that rationale where the spending is not coordinated with a candidate. “

    • Indeed, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in Citizens United, said that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

  • The FEC had argued in this case that large contributions to groups that made independent expenditures could “lead to preferential access for donors and undue influence over officeholders.” The Appeals Court said those arguments “plainly have no merit after Citizens United.”

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