Who should pay for political campaigns?

Greene, Wade
January 1974
Columbia Journalism Review;Jan/Feb1974, Vol. 12 Issue 5, p24
This article comments on several issues about political reform campaigns in the U.S., as of 1974. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. of Delaware has given a disturbing account of the way campaign financing routinely tends to corrupt the electoral process. And Biden is now a prominent member of a congressional movement to overhaul the election finance system. The U.S. Senate has been in the forefront of the movement. In August 1973, the Senate passed a bill that would limit campaign contributions and spending, a measure known informally as the Clem Stone Benefaction Control Act. Of the several major campaign finance measures being considred by the U.S. Congress, one would remove a two-year-old limit on media spending by federal candidates, one would repeal the 40-year-old equal time provision for campaign broadcasting, and one would require broadcasters to set aside large blocks of prime time for campaigning by both presidential and congressional candidates. Reformers have traditionally tended to aim their fire in three directions: setting ceilings on campaign spending; limiting the source and size of contributions; and requiring disclosure of information about spending and contributions. Spending limitations, first tried on a state level in 1893 in California and Missouri, have been so full of loopholes in both state and national laws as to be virtually meaningless. Limiting the sources and size of contributions has been hardly more effective. As for disclosure, requiring candidates and election organizations to tell where their money comes from and goes has long been viewed as an effective complement to or even an alternative to outright ceilings and prohibitions. To combat ineffectuality, reformers say that, at a minimum, more rigorous enforcement of existing laws is needed.


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