Podcast # 7: Campaign Financing


Mission: To protect the integrity of the federal campaign finance process by providing transparency and fairly enforcing and administering federal campaign finance laws.

The call for reform : Progressive Era

Many laws throughout the early and mid 1900s but they were difficult to enforce. The FEC isn’t perfect but it has played a critical part in enforcement.

There were so many issues with the Presidential Election of 1972 that it was essential that an independent regulatory agency be created to enforce these campaign finance laws that were on the books but being ignored.

The FEC is led by 6 Commissioners. They are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. Serve staggered, 6 year terms.

No more than 3 from any 1 political party. Currently (3)

1 Republican

1 Democrat

1 independent and 3 vacant seats on the committee

FECA – Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971

Amended in 1974 (Post Watergate)

Individual Donors – can’t give more than $2,800 to any federal candidate $5,000 limit to a PAC (Political Action Committee)

Set a maximum amount a candidate could donate to their own campaign ($50,000)

PAC: multicandidate $5,000 per election $5,000 per year $5,000 per year (combined) $15,000 per year $45,000 per account, per year
PAC: nonmulticandidate $2,800* per election $5,000 per year $10,000 per year (combined) $35,500* per year $106,500* per account, per year

How much money has been raised so far?

FEC.Gov 6/30/2020

Candidates raised almost 3.8 Billion

PACS – 4.5 billion

Party Committees – 1.2 Billion

Who is giving money and WHY?

Important terms:

PACS: Political Action Committee – created by companies, unions and environmentalists, and other interest groups to raise and contribute money to political campaigns and candidates.

Connected PACS – connected to a company/union etc. must separate funding from their own treasuries. Only members of companies or unions can contribute.

Non Connected PACS anyone can donate. Donations to candidates can exceed law limits. Tend to be single issue committees (Ex: NRA)

Leadership PAC – form of a non connected PAC. A current or formal official (cant use $ for their own campaign) but it can be used for other candidates.

Most members of the legislative branch have one.

For many members, if they want to hold leadership positions, it certainly benefits them to spend money on colleagues in order to garner support. Some money is spent on campaigns, some money is spent on luxury vacations, expensive dinners, flights, tickets to events.

Super PACS – 2,400 currently on file with the FEC

- Spent over 1 Billion in the 2016 election

- Contributions from individuals and groups are unlimited BUT can’t contribute directly to the candidate it is supporting

- 2010 – 2 Supreme Court Cases gave an increase in the influence of SUPER PACS ( citizens united & SpeechNow vs. FEC)

Special Interest Groups:

Warnings against Interest groups go all the way back to James Madison and the Federalist papers.

Lobbying: an attempt to influence or persuade government officials to make certain decisions or to garner support.

For example, the pharmaceutical and health industry spends on average over 200 Million dollars a year on lobbying the federal government.

Changing dynamics throughout American history led to the creation of various special interest groups. Labor movements, teacher’s unions, veteran groups, American Civil Liberties Union. Just to outline a few.

How can we combat the influence of these groups?

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