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Campaign Finance Reform Systems

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Essay title: Campaign Finance Reform Systems

5 March 2001

Campaign Finance Reform Systems

Lyndon Johnson called it “more loophole than law” (Clean Money Reform). Campaign finance has given birth to an untold number of court cases, regulations and limits involving those seeking office. As naturally follows, there has been a rise in reform proposals, loopholes and PACs to counter the current practices of campaign financing. These two facts alone are enough to declare it is an issue which warrants an appropriate examination of perceived problems and possible solutions.

The common thread seen in most complaints against the current system is that one candidate is given advantage over the other because he or she has a greater capacity to raise and spend money. Consequently, I believe the most forward approach in addressing the problems requires the playing field be leveled, making it just as easy for one candidate to access funds as the other. In doing so, the government has a compelling interest to assure its elected officers are not beholden to any special interest other than the general welfare of their constituents and that such officers are not unfairly stripped of their constitutional guarantee of free speech under the First Amendment.

Before I expound on leveling the field, let me first clear up concerns in the realm of free speech. The courts have held that even “free speech” may be limited if there is a compelling government interest. For example, libel and slander are illegal because they are damaging to an individual’s character or enterprise. Language that leads to inciting a riot is also restricted because the government has an interest in preserving the peace. True free speech is a myth. If free speech compromises the integrity of the nation’s officers or their ability to conduct the government’s business, there may be room to regulate the use of free speech.

That being said, I will now tie the issue of free speech to campaign donations, as addressed in Buckley v. Valeo. In Buckley, the United States Supreme Court ruled that, although limitations on campaign contributions restrict a type of speech, they "serve the basic governmental interest in safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process without directly impinging upon the rights of individual citizens and candidates to engage in political

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