Campaign Spending Research Paper by yn5404w


									Bob Johnson

Professor Thompson

English 191

18 December 2006

                                  Campaign Spending:

                        Money Has Too Much Influence in Politics

       It is the day before the Presidential Primary and Candidate A, a small town man

not financially endowed, is running for office. He is the low man on the campaign

circuit, for he has not been able to spend nearly as much as his opponents, Candidate B

and Candidate C. Candidate A is the better candidate with a more impressive resume,

more experience in parliamentary procedure, and more experience with the political

process; Candidates B and C are rich folks with hardly any experience in the political

world. But it just so happens that B and C have hit the campaign trail hard, spending

money as though their pockets are endless, and getting their names out in the world. Is it

fair that Candidate A does not get the same opportunity as Candidates B and C because of

his financial status?

       Today, one of the most controversial political issues is campaign spending. This

issue has an outstanding effect on the political process and has been a problem in the

political world for decades. Supporters of campaign spending have fought hard to

prevent laws which establish a limit on the amount that can be spent by a candidate.

Unfortunately, supporters of spending have found loopholes to get around the laws and

dishonorably continue their fight for office. As of this year, campaign spending has

reached an all-time high. It has gone up at an accelerating rate, especially over the past

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couple of years, and politicians suggest that it will continue to increase. Because

campaign spending has too much influence over the political process in the 21st century,

it has allowed wealthy individuals, unfit to run for office, to be heavy contenders in the


       A key problem dealing with campaign spending is derived from the Constitution.

Politicians have fought hard to introduce campaign spending into the First Amendment.

As a U.S. Supreme Court ruling under the First Amendment, a candidate would be given

the right to free speech which entitles them to spend unlimited amounts of money

(Savage, 16). This Amendment is not in writing yet, but may change the way that

elections operate. If the Amendment was to pass, corruption could arise because

candidates would be able to receive hefty contributions (16). James Bopp, a general

counsel for James Madison Center for Free Speech claims that "such an [amendment]

makes candidates bit players in their own elections" (17). Bopp is claiming that, as “bit

players,” these candidates would have a small role in actually being elected because

money is virtually buying them into office. Candidates would not have to project their

image to the world as often because the money would do it for them.

       Distinct problems arise when less-wealthy citizens are afraid to run for office

because money is overpowering their will to run. George McKenna, author of Taking

Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Political Issues, claims that “rampant spending

on political campaigns discourages less-wealthy citizens from seeking office” (McKenna,

44). Wealthy citizens, in some cases, use money as a way to run their opponents out of

the race. If money is not a problem for one candidate and is a problem for another, the

less-wealthy candidate will have trouble staying in the race for office. Money is a very

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intimidating form of influence, and most politicians will do anything to win their way

into office, even if it means if they are buying their way in.

       A popular question arises when talking about the campaign spending dilemma.

Where is the excess money spent by candidates coming from? Limitations are being

exceeded by candidates, even though laws are set forth to control how much one

politician can spend on his or her campaign. As of 2004, a record-breaking $4 billion

was spent on campaign-related activities by presidential and congressional candidates,

thirty percent up from 2000 (Harper, 1). Why has such a drastic change in campaign

spending transpired? Well, it is due mainly to the amount of money which has been

donated by private citizens.

       Today, private citizen donation is becoming a huge problem in the campaign

spending plight. Women are becoming more generous, providing more lavish donations

than they have in the past (Harper, 1). Groups that are supported by incumbents allot for

many of the private donations as well. Individual donations for the 2004 elections totaled

$2.5 billion, a one billion dollar increase from the 2000 elections (1).

       The issue of "soft money" is a highly contributive factor in campaign spending.

Soft money is money given to candidates off the record and is to be used for "party

building" activities. Candidates use the term party building to create a loophole in the

political system because party building is such a general term. Candidates have used the

money to further their campaigning. "Hard money" refers to money given to candidates

that is monitored by committees. Soft money does not have to be supervised by the

committees. Thus, soft money has a very powerful impact on the outcome of elections

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because a substantial amount of money can be privately donated to a party and not


       To correct this problem, government officials have sought to introduce a "clean

money, clean election" proposal (McKenna, 51). This proposal would force citizens to

donate five dollars a year, and the money would go into a trust fund. Candidates who

abide by the spending limits would get to use this money in their campaigns, but only if

they followed all the rules (51). Clean money is the fair alternative to the campaign

spending problem because it offers a level playing field for all candidates running for

office. It would also "give honest candidates an alternative end," (“Once Again” 12A)

meaning that it would allow candidates to focus on issues rather than money.

       Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign spending was a huge factor in getting him

into office as California governor. In the 2004 governor election campaign,

Schwarzenegger's spending totaled $142 million (Goodin, 60). Television commercials

alone cost him a hefty sum of $69.3 million (60). Not saying that he does not deserve the

title of governor, but his campaign proves that with popularity and a substantial amount

of money, almost anybody can win an election. If he had not been a popular actor and

did not have an endless pocket, his chances of winning would have plummeted.

       John Corzine is today’s New Jersey Governor. He was first elected Senator in the

2000 election and continued to be in office until 2006 when he became governor. During

the 2000 election campaign, Corzine allegedly spent over an eighth of his $400 million

fortune (“Buy!” 30). Jim Florio, his opponent in the race called him a “walking ATM

machine” (30). He made himself recognized in the world, spending the most that

anybody has ever spent in the history of Senate campaigns. No doubt that Corzine is a

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very hard-working man, for he has found his own way to the top of the financial ladder,

but his riches have lead him to overpower everybody. Nobody has tested him in any of

the races he has been in. He spent $30 million more than his opponent Jim Florio in the

2000 election (30). Is it fair that Florio did not have a chance from the start?

Fortunately, Corzine has done a fine job of living up to the expectations of being

Governor of New Jersey.

       Big spending does not guarantee that a candidate will win an election. In the

2004 South Dakota elections for Senator, Tom Daschle spent $7 million more than his

opponent and still lost the race (“Money” 34). Even though this happens on occasion

where the candidate who spends less wins, it is more typical that the big spenders do win.

In the 2004 Senate races, the winners outspent their rivals (34). This fact proves that in

most cases, the candidate who spends the most usually wins the elections. Now, just

because the candidate is rich, it does not make him unfit to run for office, but it lessens

the chances of any other opponent to rival him or her.

       During the 2004 Presidential campaigning process, George Bush and John Kerry

both refused to accept public donations (“Money” 34). Many people thought this to be a

commendable act, but really what they were doing was refusing public donations so that

they could accept more private donations. This way Bush and Kerry were able to accept

more $2,000 contributions, (34) which happens to be the limit on regulated private

donations. Many people are not aware that politicians are clever and are able to find

loopholes which will allow them to spend more. Taxpayers benefit from politicians not

using public money (34). If taxpayers do not have to give money to the government, then

they are much happier people.

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       In 2002, President Bush passed the McCain-Feingold Reform also known as the

Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The reform's purpose was to stop big donors from

having political influence (“Money” 34). It banned soft money, raised the amount of

hard money that could be given by donors, and prohibited organizations from running ads

which directly or indirectly attack other candidates (34). This law would enable

politicians to use their money wisely on specific campaign activities, and would put all

candidates on a level playing field. So far, the act has lived up to its name, but it is not

certain if campaign spending will be regulated in the future.

       The Federal Election Committee (FEC) regulates the amount of hard money that

can be donated to each individual candidate. Its primary purpose is to watch over the

candidate’s spending, making sure that they do not exceed limitations. Additionally, the

FEC is supposed to keep an eye on private citizen donations. Because campaign

spending is still a problem developing from unregulated donations, it might be a good

idea to tightly administer all types of contributions. That way, private donations would

not get out of hand.

       Name recognition is a critical part of the campaign routine, and candidates find

that a popular way to get their name out to the world is to campaign in the media.

Television and radio ads are the foundation for a good campaign. But when money is not

a factor, candidates are able to use the media more and more as a way to attack other

candidates. As of mid-August 2006, an estimated $311 million for congressional races

has already been spent on television ads alone (Schatz, 1). A decent ad is worth every

penny, of course talking about an ad that focuses only on the issues at hand and what side

the candidate takes. On the other hand, ads that bash other candidates are ridiculous

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because they do not focus on any issues. If one was to tune into a commercial, generally

within the last couple of months before an election, he or she would hear the typical ad

claiming “Candidate A wants you to feel bad for her because her family is handicapped,

but you should not let her family problems affect your vote. Vote for me, Candidate B

because I am a much better person for the job.” This is an example of the typical “bash

ad” where candidates have no real purpose but to bring down their opponents by digging

into their personal life. Jennifer Harper, a writer for the Washington Times, states it best

when she says, “Costly negative or misleading campaign blitzes alienate a weary public

from politics and elections” (Harper, 2). Campaign spending allows these particular ads

to exist, for if one was to tightly regulate the money, candidates would be much more

conservative with their cash and not use it for direct scrutiny of their opponents.

       In addition to the United States having a campaign spending problem, other

countries are having just as much trouble. During Latvia’s 2002 elections, numerous

complaints were made clear as “lavish campaign spending” resided throughout the

country (Auers, 2). Latvia’s election was “framed as a battle between corrupt oligarchs

and honest patriots” (2). This caused the voters to lose interest in the election and voter

turnout percentages were down. The same problem could just as well happen in the

United States where voters lose their trust in political stability and decide not to vote for

an unjust cause. Just like the United States, Latvia was forced to design new campaign

finance laws to “curb the excesses” (2). It must become apparent that there is a problem

if not just one, but many countries are having similar problems with campaign spending.

       Overall, campaign spending has a negative effect on the political process. It has

unfortunately allowed wealthy individuals whom may be unfit to run for office to be

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contenders in the elections. Less-wealthy individuals are left with sorry chances of

getting into office unless they have a very strong campaign. Even then, it may not be

enough. The FEC has not done its job to control campaign spending and still has a long

way to go until they have regulated soft money as well as hard money. The issue of

money regulation will take many years to fix because “there [is] too much money in

politics” (“More Money” 13).

       Wealthy individuals such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Corzine have used

their personal fortunes to run against less wealthy individuals and seemed to have not

even been burdened by their opponents. President Bush and Kerry, as well as other

politicians, have found loopholes in the system which allow them to receive more and

spend more due to citizen donations. The McCain-Feingold Reform has tried to stop

wealthy donors from having too much influence in politics, but may have trouble living

up to its name in the future. As for the future of campaign spending, well, the future lies

in the voters. If the voters finally realize that money does not make a candidate fit for

office, then all candidates can be on the same playing field and focus on the issues-at-

hand rather then making the campaign process the prime issue. Once all the candidates

are on the same playing field, then let the best man win.

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