Funding is a crucial component of every political campaign. Over the past several decades, the cost of running a campaign has vastly increased. As a result, the United States Congress has produced several proposals on campaign finance reform. These proposals included the elimination of soft money and the raising of limits on individual contributions.
Of the various proposals discussed in Congress, one is the elimination of soft money. Soft money is donations given to political parties for party activities rather than in support of a particular candidate or campaign. Soft money is spent on activities such as voter registration and issue advertising.
One proposal that was put forth in 1997 was the McCain-Feingold Bill, the basis of which was a ban on soft money. This bill would prohibit all soft money contributions to national political parties. Additionally, state parties that accepted these unregulated contributions would be prohibited from spending them on federal elections. There are, however, both proponents and opponents of this notion to eliminate soft money. Supporters of this reform argue that political parties become under the control of large contributors of soft money, many of which hope that their large contributions would pay off in the form of a policy decision or bill endorsement
. Proponents advocate that this is detrimental to the democratic process, and that soft money contributions eliminate the power of the broad electorate. Nonetheless, there is a plethora of citizens who are against this proposal. Opponents argue that the first amendment to the Constitution grants them the freedom of speech, and that this proposal infringes on their rights to free speech and their ability to influence the electorate. Furthermore, just as some consider soft money contributions detrimental to the representative democracy of this country, others consider the banning of thus just as detrimental.
Additionally, another proposal put forth is the raising of limits on individual contributions. In 1974, the Federal Election Campaign Act set the limits of these individual contributions, commonly referred to as hard money. Individual contributions to a candidate are limited to $1,000 in the primary campaign and $1,000 in the general election. Moreover, individual contributions to a political action committee may not exceed $5,000 per year, and there is an aggregate limit of $25,000 to all federal candidates, parties, and PACs.
The debate over this issue stems from the challenger in an election being at a severe disadvantage. This is because incumbents running for reelection receive a bulk of their money from political action committees, and thus they do not have to rely much on personal contributions. The opposite is true for the challenger; he or she receives very little from political action committees, and they rely heavily on personal contributions. Proponents advocate that raising the limits on individual contributions would make the election more equal.
In addition, supporters argue that raising these limits would make the election based more on actual issues rather than the amount of money a politician has amassed in his or her war chest.Opponents, however, argue that very few citizens would be able to make contributions that large, and those that are able to would subsequently gain more political power. Furthermore, opponents argue that this would disrupt the equal representation of the complete electorate.
There is a multitude of proposals debated by the United States Congress over the issue of campaign finance reform. Of these numerable proposals, two involve the elimination of soft money and the raising of limits on individual contributions. The arguments both for and against these proposals exist in copiousness, and they will continue to exist as long as money plays a decisive role in political campaigns.