Campaign Finance Vs. Democracy


Financing in the elections especially in the campaign process is becoming a perennial aspect of the political system in the US, long centered on the enduring issues of high campaign costs due to increased costs of operations and economic growth which is increasing the inflation (Coleman and Paul, p.757).

Campaign finance is not possible without a contributor. In the US, private contributors surpass the government contributions to campaigns by a big margin. The link between the candidates vote in the congress influences the finance and since most of the private donors have to benefit in the decisions made by the candidate in congress i.e. it can be said that they buy the candidates (Coleman and Paul, p. 761).

The reliance on interest groups for needed campaign funds is becoming an accepted move. This essay will be looking at the sources of finance and the McCain Feingold/ShaysMeehan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 and its effect on democracy in the US. The ways in which thee restrictions can be avoided and the ways in which the parties concerned go around them is also discussed.

Difference between hard and soft money

Hard money is basically the amount which is raised from individuals; the federal electoral commission has restricted the contribution to $1,000 directly to a federal candidate vying for any post in the US per election and $5,000 to a Political Action Committee in a given year.

Soft money is raised from private sources e.g. corporations, unions and individuals members of a party. Federal candidates do not accept soft money in any way. There are no legal limitations as to the amounts of soft money a corporation or individual can contribute to the campaign of a specific candidate, nor can any limitation on the amount of soft money an organization could spend.

How funding affect elections

Funding in its sense is a complicated aspect of the elections and could be seen as unfair to the candidates who are not able to contribute enough monies in their campaign; however funding is advantageous to the candidates. It is said to contribute to educated debate on issues of public interest and those affecting the foreign policies and strategies of a state.

They are however harmful if the politicians use this financing to mislead the voters to earn political mileage. This is evident when the campaigns are basically battle over the control of government resources rather than good governance principles in the society. In summary it can be said that the finance spending in the elections affect the elections and the economy in the following way;

  1. Election advertising increases voters’ knowledge of issues and candidates with emphasis on the policies and strategies the candidate is likely to implement if given a chance. This is basically considered as making ones manifesto known to the voters.
  2. Message and advert repetition in the media familiarizes voters with candidates and issues which need adjustments in the economy and thus they are left in a better position in making informed choices in the selection of their preferred candidates.
  3. The connection between the issues that the voters care about or want adjusted should be related with the proposed issues by the candidates in their advertising. This affects the decisions of the voters since they are able to choose their preferred candidates.
  4. Candidates who use higher financing will basically have a greater impact in the society as compared to the others. They are seen to have a higher rating in the public.

Campaign system since the passage of McCain-Feingold/ShaysMeehan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 and its effect on democracy

Critics of American political system believe that financial spending on electoral campaigns harms the democratic environment in the society. The finance is said to insist on cynical, negative, and misleading advertisements that sideline the general population of voters from the real issues affecting them. Financial campaign spending doo not basically diminish trust, efficacy, and involvement, to the contrary it increases public knowledge of the candidates and their policies i.e. their manifesto in all the people of all ages in the economy. The opposite of this is not likely to increase the democratic space and thus the fact that the increase in the campaign finance is basically beneficial to American democracy (Adamany, p. 95).

Campaign spending has a great impact on democratic life, it is said to increase the public knowledge on the issues affecting them and the economy at large. Also the amounts of these spending are independent and thus not increase or reduce the democratic space whatsoever. The fact is that spending boosts social awareness, recall, ability to perform campaign-related knowledge tasks, and respondent accuracy to economic related issues (Jacobson, p. 469).

Campaign spending is said to enhance the quality of democracy in the states it is used in that an economy with political harmony is created. Campaign spending increases public knowledge and information on the candidates, the information could be advantageous or disadvantageous. Public information in decision making is said to be democracy and this is basically what the spending is designed to do. It gives a playing field for policy and strategy competition and the candidate whose manifesto is accepted by the majority takes the day.

Some of the supporters of a candidate of a party may be willing to give resources to the campaign of a certain candidate. The best way to do this is by financing the expenses in the campaigns and thus the ideologies of the party are maintained e.g. the democrats and republicans advocate for their party policies and fundamental beliefs (Abrams and Settle, p. 245).

Going around the spending limits

Not any law in any region of the world lacks some loophole and the federal elections law is no exception. Some of the campaign financing are seen as undermining the law but they are legal in nature. These practices greatly surpass the set elections financing limits but they are not restricted by the current laws and thus are legal. Critics may say that they are moves to go round the spending limits of the campaigns; these ways can be explained as follows (Coleman and Paul, 781);


This takes place when an intermediary agent takes cheques on behalf of the candidate. These cheques are in the favor of the candidate, in this way they can raise amounts far in excess of what they are legally allowed. This is one way of going round the legal spending limits set by the federal electoral commission.

Soft Money

Soft money is sometimes not directly used in the elections but will indirectly influence the elections in general. It significance can be seen in the following factors;

  1. Most states allow direct union and corporate contributions and individual donations; these sources of finance are restricted in the federal elections.
  2. Soft money could be used in the grass roots to influence even the federal elections at the grass roots level.
  3. Since the publicly funded presidential candidates are not allowed to use privately owned financing they fund the state parties to increase or boost their touch and this could be seen as a move to go around the legally set limit.

Independent Expenditures

The Buckley ruling in 1976 allowed the unlimited spending on communication expenditure with the voters to oppose or support any candidate. This move is seen to hinder the ability of some candidates to compete due to the charges which may be advocated by an outside group. Some parties formed such groups to influence the voters and since there is no direct relationship with the candidates they are treated as supporters of the candidate who campaign for some policies and thus the aspect of accountability is minimal and sometimes absent (Bender, 1007).

Issue Advocacy

The definition of the components of spending is not clearly defined and thus court ruling have identified several terms as express terms and in the event that those terms are omitted in any form of communication then it legal. By avoiding these terms the supporters of a candidate can promote their views to the public in reference to a particular person thus in a way prompting or campaigning for them. These actions are referred to as advocacy.

Many groups advocate for their ideologies and in some way will basically help the campaign of some candidates. This is seen as a way to go round the legally accepted financing limit (Potter et al, p. 4).


The magnitude of campaign spending may not be the only factor that influences votes.

The diversity and concentration of the campaign contributions that give rise to campaign spending may also influence votes. Last, we found that more money spent on contrast ads (which combine positive and negative appeals) significantly boosted public knowledge; positive ads more modestly boosted knowledge. In sum, even if we analyze spending on particular kinds of advertising, rather than spending overall, we find that high levels of campaign spending produce generally positive effects.

Works cited

  1. Abrams, Burton, and Settle Russell. The Economic Theory of Regulation and the Public Financing of Presidential Elections.” Journal of Political Economy 86 (1978): 245-257. Print.
  2. Adamany, David. “The Unaccountability of Political Money.” In pp. 95-116. Edited by Margaret Latus Nugent and John R. Johannes. San Francisco: West view Press, 1990. Print.
  3. Bender, Bruce. An Analysis of Congressional Voting on Legislation Limiting and Congressional Campaign Expenditures.” Journal of Political Econom 96(1988):1005-1021.
  4. Coleman, John, and Paul Manna. “Congressional Campaign Spending and the Quality of Democracy.” The Journal of Politics 62(2000):757-789.
  5. Jacobson, Gary. “The Effects of Electoral Campaign Spending in Congressional Elections.” American Political Science Review 72(1978):469-491.
  6. Potter, Jan, et al. “Campaign Expenditures, Contributions and Direct Endorsements: The Strategic Use of Information and Money to Influence Voter Behavior.” European Journal of Political Economy, 13(1997):1-31.
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