The 2014-2016 National Program on Key Structures of Democracy focused increased attention at every level of League on Money in Politics and included a new study to provide additional detail to the League’s position.
Based on the new position statement and previous action on campaign finance reform, the four major elements of the League’s MIP plan focus on: disclosure, stopping super PACs (a political committee that can solicit and spend unlimited sums of money. to campaign for or against political figures), public financing for congressional and presidential elections and reform of the FEC in order to create an effective enforcement agency.
The League’s Position
The League of Women Voters believes that the methods of financing political campaigns should:
- Enhance political equality for all citizens.
- Ensure maximum participation by citizens in the political process; protect representative democracy from being distorted by big spending in election campaigns.
- Provide voters sufficient information about candidates and campaign issues to make informed choices; ensure transparency and the public’s right to know who is using money to influence elections.
- Enable candidates to compete equitably for public office; ensure that candidates have sufficient funds to communicate their messages to the public; and combat corruption and undue influence in government.
The League believes that political corruption includes the following:
- A candidate or officeholder agrees to vote or work in favor of a donor’s interests in exchange for a campaign contribution.
- An officeholder or staff gives greater access to donors.
- An officeholder votes or works to support policies that reflect the preferences of individuals or organizations in order to attract contributions from them.
- A candidate or office holder seeks political contributions implying that there will be retribution unless a donation is given.
- The results of the political process consistently favor the interests of significant campaign contributors.
In order to achieve the goals for campaign finance regulation, the League supports:
- Public financing of elections, either voluntary or mandatory, in which candidates must abide by reasonable spending limits.
- Enhanced enforcement of campaign finance laws that includes changes to ensure that regulatory agencies are properly funded, staffed, and structured to avoid partisan deadlock in the decisionmaking process.
- Abolishing Super PACs and abolishing spending coordinated or directed by candidates (other than a candidate’s own campaign committee)
- Restrictions on direct donations and bundling by lobbyists, which may include monetary limits as well as other regulations.
Until full public financing of elections is enacted, limits on election spending are needed in order to meet the League’s goals for protecting democratic processes. Among the different entities that spend money to influence elections, the League supports the following comparative limits:
- Higher spending limits for political parties, genuinely non-partisan voter registration and get-outthe- vote organizations and activities, and candidates’ spending money raised from contributors
- Mid-level spending limits for individual citizens (including wealthy individuals), Political Action Committees (with funds contributed by individuals associated with the sponsoring organization, such as employees, stockholders, members and volunteers), and candidates spending their own money
- Lower spending limits for trade associations, labor unions and non-profit organizations from their general treasury funds
- Severely restricted spending by for-profit organizations spending from their corporate treasury funds
- No limits on spending by bona fide newspapers, television, and other media, including the Internet, except to address partisan abuse or use of the media to evade campaign finance regulations
This position is applicable to all federal campaigns for public office: presidential and congressional, primaries as well as general elections. It also may be applied to state and local campaigns.
Statement of Position on Campaign Finance, as Announced by National Board, April 2016.
Background Materials for Money in Politics Review and Update
- Background (2 pages)
- Introduction and Overview (5 pages)
First Amendment Topics
- Shifts in Supreme Court Opinion about Money in Politics (6 pages)
- The First Amendment (as it pertains to campaign finance; 5 pages)
- The Role of the Supreme Court in Interpreting the Constitution (4 pages)
- The Debate: Can Government Regulate Money in Politics? (2 pages)
- Corruption and Rationales for Regulating Campaign Finance (5 pages)
Current Status of Campaign Finance
- The New Soft Money by Daniel P. Tokaji & Renata E. B. Strause (e-book)
Professor Daniel P. Tokaji & Renata E. B. Strause have authored an e-book entitled The New Soft Money and with their permission, we have linked to a copy. The entire book is well worth reading. Sections of Chapter 1 including The New Rules of the Game, pp.17-23 and The Players, pp.23-27 cover the issue of coordination and are of particular interest to Leagues as we examine the current system of campaign finance reform. (113 pages)
- Hard, Soft, and Dark Money (5 pages)
- Independent Expenditures (8 pages)
- Options to Reform Money in Politics (3 pages)
- Evidence of Spending’s Impacts on Electoral and Legislative Outcomes (5 pages)
- Enforcement Of Federal Campaign Finance Law (6 pages)
- Campaign Finance Activity and Reform in the States (8 pages)
- History of Campaign Finance Chart
- Definitions for Money in Politics Terms
- Money in Politics: Developing a Common Understanding of the Issues–A Primer for Engagement of League Members and Fellow Citizens