Contrast in Systems of Financing
Passage of the New U.S. Campaign Spending Law
The widespread abuses of federal election laws during the 1972 presidential campaign have forced Americans to reexamine and to reform their system of campaign finance. It has long been recognized that at the state, congressional and particularly at the presidential level, political candidates have become increasingly indebted to private organizations and individuals who gave them money to finance their campaigns. But it took the Watergate scandal and the collapse of Richard M. Nixon's presidency to dramatize the need for change in the rules of the game of “dollar politics.”
Included in the unprecedented catalog of misdeeds which have come to be known as Watergate were specific violations of campaign spending laws, violations of other criminal laws made possible by the availability of virtually unlimited campaign contributions, and still other instances where campaign funds were used in a manner that strongly suggested influence peddling or, at the very least, gave the appearance of gross improprieties in the conduct of public office. Indeed, one of the things that precipitated President Nixon's resignation was the disclosure that he had concealed from the public his knowledge that the June 1972 Watergate break-in had been financed by private contributions to his reelection campaign.
Public outrage at the Watergate scandal placed strong pressure on Congress to devise means to control excessive campaign spending. In response to a rising tide of public demand, and after months of delay, Congress in 1974 finally completed action on campaign finance reform legislation. House and Senate conferees reached final agreement Oct. 7 on a landmark campaign finance bill aimed at curbing the influence of big money contributors and clearing up the kind of abuses revealed in the 1972 election. President Ford was expected to sign the bill.