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Campaign finance: lesson overview

A high-level overview of how the organization, finance, and strategies of campaigns impact the election process.
The role that campaign contributions play in elections has long been a subject of debate, and that debate has increased in recent decades.
Campaign finance, organization, and strategy affect which candidates get selected, the policies they promote, and who wins elections. Therefore, the role of money in campaigns remains a contentious issue, particularly whether Congress should regulate who can contribute money to campaigns, and how much money they should be allowed to contribute.

Pojęcia kluczowe

Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002Also known as the McCain-Feingold Act. Banned soft money and reduced attack ads.
“Stand by Your Ad” provisionA provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Act of 2002 which requires ads used to support or oppose a candidate to include this line: “I’m [candidate’s name] and I approve this message."
soft moneyMoney spent in support of a candidate without directly donating to their campaign, such as paying for ads or campaign events, or giving to the candidate’s party.
political action committee (PAC)An organization, usually representing an interest group or corporation, that raises money with the goal of supporting or defeating candidates, parties, or legislation. There are limits to the amount of money a PAC can donate to a candidate or party in each election.
*super PAC**Also called an "independent expenditure-only committee," a super PAC may raise unlimited funds in support of a candidate or party as long as they do not coordinate in any way with the candidate or party or donate directly to the candidate.
Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010)A Supreme Court case which ruled that political spending by corporations, associations, and labor unions is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment.

Najważniejsze zagadnienia

The impact of PACs and Super PACs— Political action committees, or PACs, are organizations (often affiliated with interest groups) that raise money for political campaigns and spend it to influence both elections and policymaking. While individuals may only contribute $2,700 directly to a candidate, they can contribute up to $5,000 per PAC and give to as many PACs as they want.
Super PACs are made up of corporations, unions, associations, and individuals; they do not have the same contribution limits as regular PACs and can raise and spend unlimited funds to support or oppose a political candidate, provided they do not give directly to the candidate or coordinate strategically with their campaign. Super PACs did not exist before 2010, and their role in financing political campaigns has been at the core of recent debates over campaign finance legislation.
Regulating money in campaigns— At different times, the federal government has acted to limit the amount of money contributed to political campaigns and political parties. The Federal Elections Commission was created in 1974 to regulate money in elections.
Politicians are divided on the role money should play in politics; some argue that spending money on political campaigns is a part of freedom of speech and should be unlimited. Others say that unlimited campaign contributions give an unfair advantage to the wealthy individuals, as well as powerful groups such as corporations and labor unions, who buy advertising time that can change election outcomes in favor of candidates who support their interests.
Impact of Citizens United decision— The decision in Citizens United held that political spending by corporations, associations, and labor unions is a form of free speech and therefore protected under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United and similar cases have reduced the limits on campaign contributions, encouraged the creation of Super PACs, and increased debate over the role money can and should play in elections.

Pytania kontrolne

What was the decision in Citizens United v. FEC and how has it impacted campaign finance?
How are Super PACs different from other PACs?
How does the financing of national political campaigns affect the election process?

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