List of Pros and Cons of Campaign Finance Reform
In American society, campaign finance reform is consistently a topic of much discussion. There are many who believe that the current campaign finance regulations are outdated and need to be adjusted to reflect the needs of modern candidates.
On the flip side of the equation, there are others who wish to keep the status quo in place and allow candidates to raise funds in the same manner that they are accustomed to. No matter which side of this debate you fall upon, there are valid points to be made by those who support campaign finance reform and those who are against it. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of campaign finance reform.
List of Pros of Campaign Finance Reform
1. Lack of Adjustment For Inflation
The current cap on campaign contributions has not been changed in over twenty years and proponents for campaign finance reform believe that this is causing candidates to receive far less bang for their buck. As prices continue to skyrocket across the board, the maximum contribution does not have the same level of buying power that it used to.
For example, a candidate who received $1,000 during the 1970s was able to make far more purchases to help their campaign than a candidate who receives the same amount in the present day. Thanks to inflation, a candidate now needs to raise three or even four times the amount that they are accustomed to raising in order to achieve similar results on the campaign trail.
2. PACs Do Not Donate To New Candidates
While those who are against campaign finance reform will typically point to the existence of PACs as evidence that candidates are already receiving adequate funding, this point of view fails to take a number of facts into account. PACs are not fond of handing out money to candidates who are new on the scene and challenging an incumbent candidate.
As such, it is extremely difficult for a new challenger to successfully get their campaign off the ground, especially in cases where the person does not come from an affluent background. If campaign finance reform is able to take place, this can positively affect the campaigns of challenging candidates and give them the funding they need to finance a quality campaign.
3. Less Time Spent on Fundraising
Candidates who are bound by the traditional campaign donation limits are forced to spend far more time fundraising, which decreases their opportunities to pound the pavement and meet their potential constituents. As a result, the general public begins to feel a serious gap between themselves and the candidates, since they do not have a chance to get to know them on a personal level.
The more money a candidate is able to receive from a single donor, the more time they can spend on the important aspects of their job, such as meeting constituents, listening to their thoughts and concerns and formulating solutions to their problems. Higher donations also frees up time for candidates to spend on their official job duties.
List of Cons of Campaign Finance Reform
1. Increases The Influence of the Wealthy
No matter which way you slice it, campaign finance reform will only serve to expand the influence of wealthy citizens. The vast majority of working class citizens are unable to afford to give a candidate more than the current spending limit. If the spending limits were uncapped, it would lead to increased corruption and allow wealthier constituents to have an unhealthy amount of control over the election process.
In a country where finances are already considered to have an unflattering influence on the bulk of our elected officials, the last decision that the government can afford is one that increases the gap between the rich and the poor. If the limit was completely abolished altogether, there is no telling what kind of chicanery may take place behind the scenes.
2. Few Changes Will Be Made
The typical problems that are brought about by campaign finance are not the type that can be fixed with a few changes to the campaign donation limit. Adding more money to a system is never a catalyst for true change and it is more than likely that we simply need to make a few tweaks to the current formula, as opposed to a full scale tear down.
Since the current system already favors incumbent candidates, lifting the spending limits will only serve to increase their already decided advantage over their competition. If wealthier constituents are able to spend without limitation, an incumbent candidates is able to retain their post without having to compete. At election time, money typically talks and the candidate with the most is able to speak the loudest.
3. Illegal Donations Run Rampant
There are already a number of ways for wealthier donors to elude the current rules and regulations and donate higher amounts to the candidates that they feel are deserving. Independent expenditures and soft money are two areas that are currently regulated poorly and campaign finance reform would do very little to deter a wealthy donor who wishes to use the existing loopholes.
In order for campaign finance to experience true reform, we must first acknowledge that the system is broken. Merely raising the spending limits does very little to democratize the election process and will only serve to widen the gap between the middle and upper class. Legal limits have always been easy to evade and will continue to be.