Campaign Finance is the process by which political campaigns are financed. There are a huge amount of rules and regulations surrounding campaign finance - governing who can and cannot donate, and how much they are able to donate.
In the past, campaign finance was poorly regulated. The very first piece of successful legislation came in the 1970s with the Federal Election Campaign Act and the subsequent amendments.
This success was followed by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 which passed some more rules on what is and is not allowed.
However, despite the success of the legislation, Supreme Court cases have meant that the rules have been changed again and, in some cases, parts of the legislation repealed.
The Federal Election Campaign Act 1971 was the first successful attempt to reform campaign finance. It required all campaigns to disclose who had donated money and how much they had donated.
The act was amended in 1974, establishing the Federal Election Commission. In addition to the establishment of the FEC new regulations were introduced which included caps on:
This Supreme Court case took on the act and its amendments.
The court ruled that caps on individual donations are fine as is the disclosure of them. However, caps on total expenditure and independent expenditure were unconstitutional.
Finally, the court ruled that the act can only apply to campaigns that explicitly advocate the election of a candidate.
The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act 2002 was designed to address soft money.
The act banned issue advocacy ads that named a candidate within 30 days of a primary, or 60 days of a general election. It also revised the campaign limits.
It also introduced the "Stand by your Ad" provision, which meant candidates had to declare that they approved of the messages that were being published.
The act has been known as the McCain-Feingold Act after its congressional sponsors, but the final act didn’t represent the original bill that was presented.
There have been 4 Supreme Court cases which have challenged the act:
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