Campaign Finance

May 6, 2016 • Volume 26, Issue 18
Does big money in politics subvert democracy?
By Tom Price


Demonstrators demand an end to big money in politics (Getty Images/CQ Roll Call/Al Drago)
Demonstrators at the U.S. Capitol on April 12, 2016, demand an end to big money in politics. About 900 of the Democracy Spring protesters, who had marched from Philadelphia to Washington, were arrested for obstructing traffic. (Getty Images/CQ Roll Call/Al Drago)

After four decades of court decisions lifting restrictions on campaign spending, Americans are going to the polls this year in the most expensive presidential campaign in U.S. history, financed mainly by a handful of wealthy individuals and business and labor groups. Public outrage over the big spending fuels some of the popularity of GOP billionaire Donald Trump's largely self-financed campaign and that of Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is supported mostly by small individual donors. But money did not help the top spender in the Republican presidential primaries: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush abandoned his well-financed candidacy amid weak voter support. Conversely, Sanders has run an unexpectedly strong campaign against deep-pocketed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Stymied by GOP congressional opposition and partisan gridlock on the Federal Election Commission, opponents of big-dollar politics are successfully pushing some states and cities to rein in election spending. But advocates of less regulation say limiting money in politics infringes on free speech.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Campaign Finance
May 06, 2016  Campaign Finance
May 28, 2010  Campaign Finance Debates
Jun. 13, 2008  Campaign Finance Reform
Nov. 22, 2002  Campaign Finance Showdown
Mar. 31, 2000  Campaign Finance Reform
Feb. 09, 1996  Campaign Finance Reform
Mar. 29, 1985  Campaign Finance Debate
Oct. 11, 1974  Campaign Spending in Europe and America
May 03, 1956  Campaign Controls
Apr. 18, 1952  Control of Campaign Abuses
Jun. 05, 1946  Campaign Spending and the Law
Apr. 15, 1940  Money in Politics
Jul. 01, 1931  Revision of Federal Corrupt Practices Act
Dec. 01, 1929  The Vare Case
Apr. 06, 1928  Presidential Campaign Funds
Aug. 17, 1926  Excessive Expenditures in Election Campaigns
Aug. 10, 1926  Illegal and Corrupt Practices in Elections
Jul. 16, 1924  Election Costs and Campaign Contributions
Campaign Finance
Campaign Finance
Campaigns and Elections
Campaigns and Elections
Party Politics
Party Politics
Supreme Court History and Decisions