Soft Money (Part 1)

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buckley v valeo
A case in which the Supreme Court of the United States upheld federal limits on campaign contributions and ruled that spending money to influence elections is a form of constitutionally protected free speech. The court also stated candidates can give unlimited amounts of money to their own campaigns.
Citizens United v FEC
A 2010 decision by the United States Supreme Court holding that independent expenditures are free speech protected by the 1st Amendment and so cannot be limited by federal law. Leads to creation of SuperPACs & massive rise in amount of third party electioneering (
McCutcheon v FEC
The plurality held that the aggregate limit did little to address the concerns that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act was meant to address and at the same time limited participation in the democratic process.
Federal Election Campaign Act
A law passed in 1974 for reforming campaign finances. The act created the Federal Election Commission (FEC), provided public financing for presidential primaries and general elections, limited presidential campaign spending, required disclosure, and attempted to limit contributions.
Federal Election Commission
A commission created by the 1974 amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act to administer election reform laws. Its duties include overseeing disclosure of campaign finance information and public funding of presidential elections, and enforcing contribution limits.
Fixed Funds
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Full Disclosure
Reveal all information that will affect the decision making of creditors, investors, etc.
Hard Money
Donations made to political candidates, party committees, or groups which, by law, are limited and must be declared.
Hatch Act 1939
Limits how involved federal government employees can become in elections. This prevented political parties from forcing federal workers to take part in election campaigns.
Independent Expenditures
Electioneering by third parties (527s or SuperPacs) to help a candidate get elected (without coordinating with candidates). Protected by Supreme Court in Citizens United as free speech and so cannot be limited by federal law.
Individual Contribution Limit
On average, most of the money raised by a candidate for Congress comes from
soft money
Money that is not subject to campaign finance limits and regulation by the FEC. All money before FECA was soft money. FECA shut down unlimited contributions to candidates so soft money flowed to political parties. McCain-Feingold shut down soft money contributions to political parties so now unlimited contributions flow to 527s and Super-Pacs.
super pacs
political organizations that use contributions from individuals, corporations, and labor unions to spend unlimited sums independent from the campaigns, yet influencing the outcomes of elections
501 c
organization, also known colloquially as a 501(c), is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization in the United States. Section 501(c) of the United States Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)) provides that 29 types of nonprofit organizations are exempt from some federal income taxes.
527 groups
Independent political groups that are not subject to contribution restrictions because they do not directly seek the election of particular candidates. Section 527 of the tax code specifies that contributions to such groups must be reported to the IRS.
Issue Advocacy Advertising
Advertising paid for by interest groups that support or oppose a candidate (or a candidate's position on an issue) without mentioning voting or elections is called
Presidential Election Campaign Act
Elections held in years when the president is on the ballot.
Politcal Action Committees
interest groups or divisions of interest groups that can raise money to contribute to campaigns or to spend on ads in support of candidates. Amount they can receive from each of their donors and their expenditure on federal electioneering are strictly limited
Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act
also called the mccain-feingold act, the federal legislation 1- restricts soft money spent by political party and 2- regulated expenditures on ads that refer to specific candidates immediately before an election and 3- increased limits on hard money donated directly to candidates and their campaigns
Matching Funds
contributions of up to $250 are matched from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund to candidates for the presidential nomination who qualify and agree to meet various conditions, such as limiting their overall spending
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