campaign finance

campaign finance facts


You probably couldn't tell from the 2004 election, but in 2002 Congress set strict limits on how much money can go into federal campaigns. The McCain-Feingold Act, as it's commonly known, was passed with the intent of closing loopholes in earlier campaign finance laws. Opponents of the reform are troubled by how it limits the 1st Amendment right to free association and free speech. Cynics suspect that no matter how much you regulate campaign spending, people with political opinions and money to burn will find a way to toss their 2-plus cents into the election fray; 527's are the latest example.

The laws

In 1867 Congress passed the first law putting a check on how political campaigns could raise money (by saying government employees couldn't wedge money out of naval yardworkers). Campaign finance laws have been expanding – and getting more complicated - every since.

Posted In

lobby & earmark reform

Issue in Brief

After being hit hard by lobbyist scandals in '05, Congress was in the mood to wipe off the taint of corruption in 2006. But early whip-cracking efforts to clean up lobbyists' act and rein in the influence of corrupting "earmarks" eventually wilted into a few modest reforms - in bills that never got passed.

2007 revived lobby and earmark reform, starting off the year with a reform frenzy, with the House passing rules to out earmark sponsors and the Senate passing a bill to shine even more light on lobbyist activities. The House followed up on the Senate's bill, passing a similar bill in May - with the two chambers passing a final bill in early August.

Though some lawmakers grumbled the 2007 bill didn't go far enough and there's still some talk of creating an independent ethics panel, it looks like Congress is prettyu much finished with lobby and earmark reform for the near future.