Roundtable: Campaign Finance Reform
1.0 Basic Information
Date of Videotaping May 2005
Title Campaign Finance Reform
General Topics/Chapters Campaigns and Elections, Domestic
Moderator Bryan Reece
Commentators Victor Obasohan; Dennis Falcon
Length of Video 19 minutes; 50 seconds
Historically, elections have been public enterprises while campaigns have been
private. The government has played a regulatory role in monitoring campaigns and a
more limited role financing federal elections through matching funds; however, as
growing concern has emerged around the idea that the current campaign finance
system is in need of repair, a range of solutions is taking shape. In this roundtable,
campaign finance reform is discussed with the understanding that the legitimacy of
our public officials and institutions largely rests on the integrity of our electoral
3.0 Video Annotations
These annotations are the actual text-based screen shots that synchronize with the
video. Perusal of the annotations provides a good overview of the discussion.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
Bryan Reece, Victor Obasohan, Dennis Falcon
DEFINITION--CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
Campaigns are very expensive and how they are paid is itself a debated issue.
The current campaign finance system in American politics is widely criticized (by
liberals and conservatives). Campaign finance reform critiques the current
system and poses possible solutions.
The legitimacy and credibility of our public officials, public institutions and
democratic processes largely rests on the integrity of our electoral system. With
money deemed a necessary component of the electoral system, debate over its
influence on the process is an ongoing discussion in political science.
1st DISCUSSION TOPIC
Does Money Buy Elections and Influence?
LISTEN FOR . . .
• Private vs. Public Financing
• Soft Money and Independent Expenditures
• Upper-Class Bias
Soft money is private money given directly to political parties. The parties in turn
can use the money for voter registration drives, administrative costs and general
political party expenses; however, the parties have been criticized for spending
the money to help specific candidates. This has been criticized as a loophole in
campaign finance reform.
Independent expenditures are campaign monies spent by independent
organizations to help specific candidates. The efforts must be conducted without
candidate collaboration. A new and controversial type of organization that has
emerged is known as a "527" (named for Section 527 of the IRS Code). These
organizations have limited restrictions.
DEFINITION--MCCAIN FEINGOLD BILL
Senators John McCain (Republican) and Russ Feingold (Democrat) authored
the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. The law ushered in substantial
campaign finance reform. The law has received considerable praise and
2nd DISCUSSION TOPIC
Should the U.S. Adopt Public Financing of Campaigns?
LISTEN FOR . . .
• TV and Public Service
• Arizona and Maine Initiatives
DEFINITION--PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCING
Historically, U.S. elections have been public enterprises while campaigns have
been private. The federal government has played some role in public financing
with the presidential matching funds program. Public campaign finance reform
seeks to have all political campaigns paid for by public monies.
Equal time is a doctrine that requires broadcasters (e.g., television stations) to
offer equal air time to political candidates. For example, ABC cannot deliberately
give the Democratic presidential candidate more air time than the Republican
DEFINITION--MONEY AND THE 1ST AMENDMENT
In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (Buckley v. Vallejo) that money is a form
of speech and therefore allows candidates to spend as much money as they
want. Attempts to restrict how much money is spent by candidates are therefore
3rd DISCUSSION TOPIC
What can the U.S. do to resolve some of the problems in the current system of
With the cost of running for office more expensive than ever, campaign finance
reform has emerged as a pressing contemporary issue.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Is the private financing system in need of repair? Should we adopt public
financing of campaigns?
4.0 Multiple Choice Questions
The following multiple choice questions are online at mypoliscilab. Students can take
the multiple choice quiz after each video as a practice quiz or a scored quiz that is
forwarded to their instructor/TA via email.
Soft money is:
a. money given directly to political parties.
b. criticized as a loophole in campaign finance reform.
c. only found in European countries.
d. provided by the government.
*e. a and b
a. heavily regulated by the Federal Elections Commission.
b. largely to blame for the soft money problem.
c. unconstitutional according to the Supreme Court.
*d. independent expenditure organizations.
e. exclusively associated with the Democratic party.
The McCain-Feingold Bill:
*a. ushered in campaign finance reform.
b. established full public financing in the U.S.
c. created public financing in Maine and Arizona.
d. failed to pass through Congress.
e. b and c
Public campaign financing is:
a. found in some states.
b. realized partly through the Presidential candidate matching funds program.
c. a commonly discussed proposal in the U.S..
d. is a solution that restricts or moves private money out of the campaign finance
*e. All of the Above
Money in American political campaigns:
a. has been supported by the Supreme Court through Buckley v Vallejo.
b. is regulated by McCain-Feingold.
c. is mainly provided by non-government sources.
d. is considered by many to buy influence.
*e. All of the above
English and Spanish transcripts will be available on the Round Table Discussions