Part of the American system is the campaign and party financing which is especially relevant during elections. The money or the funding raised was said to have some influence in terms of political processes especially on what laws or policies are enacted or enforced (Office of Democracy and Governance 1). Hence, it creates a scenario wherein these funds are used to indirectly influence what laws should be passed especially affecting the legislative process.
This paper hopes to present first the to define what money in politics is and the process involved in campaign financing. Second, it hopes to present to some extent how money influences law making. Finally this paper hopes to present its observations and conclusion on the subject matter. Money in Politics Money in politics was defined by the Office of Democracy and Governance as “funds used for electioneering and influencing political processes” (Office of Democracy and Governance 1).
Campaign financing is one of those perceived to influence legislative process or what particular laws would be enacted to favor particular interests. The law in the United States provides that membership organizations, corporations and labor unions may create a so-called Political Action Committees (PACs) to collect money from organization employees or members in order to augment resources for campaign contributions (Smith 82).
In Smith’s book entitled, ‘The American Congress,’ he explains that “because of the fact that PACs may contribute more than individuals, there is an incentive to create PACs” (82). However, it was observed that individuals contribute larger sums to parties than to PACs and also parties may contribute larger sums directly to candidates than can PACs (Smith 82). Aside from this, the law expressly emphasizes that there must be public disclosure of contributions and expenditures by candidates, parties and PACs which must be contained in a report (Smith 82).
Despite these safeguards for campaign funding and spending, Smith comments that the law has many loopholes, citing for instance that the law is not able to regulate “soft money contributions” or those contributed by wealthy individuals and corporations to political parties to be used for television ads for the party, party staff and office expenses, voter registration and get out the votes efforts and other purposes obviously to benefit the party’s candidate (82).
Hence, as Smith explained, “this allows individuals and PACs that have reached their limit in direct contributions to a candidates campaign to contribute money to a party organization that can work on the candidate’s behalf (82). On the otherhand, Rockwell and Woll in the book entitled ‘American Government: Competition and Compromise,’ they explain that “the current campaign finance system is a compromise among the competing sets of beliefs and values about the place of money in the political system” (Rockwell and Woll 106).
Hence, they say that “those who believe that money corrupts politics and those who believe money is a legitimate means of participating in and influencing the political system, lies a maze of PACs, soft money contributions, spending on issue advertisements, and controversial interpretations of the Constitution” (Rockwell and Woll 106).
Since PACs are able to pay for administrative costs and can pool all of the funds that have been contributed, they are considered as “very efficient and very effective at gathering and distributing money” (Sorauf 123). PAC contributions according to Rockwell and Woll may have the effect of unduly influencing candidates and officeholders because “PACs work to the advantage of some groups like corporations, over others and the fact that PAC contributions support incumbents far more than they support challengers” (108).
Although, Sorauf defends PACs and explains that PACs are not intrusions onto the political scene but merely instruments of representative democracy by organizing individuals around interests, ideologies and policy options (Sorauf 129). Because of the various perception of how campaign finance in general affect the electoral system which may in turn influence the policies which may later on represent a few interest, there have been some focus on how campaign finance should be reformed (Rockwell and Woll 111).
The Office of Democracy and Governance says that money in politics also have the following effects: there is an uneven playing field in that there is risk that large sums of money in politics would give an undue advantage over others and constrain competition; there is an unequal access to office in that the risk that certain sectors of a population lacking money are prevented from running for office or getting meaningful representation; the risk that those who donate funds will control the politicians they finance; and the risk that the dirty or illicit money will corrupt the system and undermine the rule of law (Office of Democracy and Governance 2). Thus overall, it is said that these risk may threaten not only the democratic but also economic development (Office of Democracy and Governance 2).
The paper further explains that large sums of money give certain parties or candidates undue advantage over others, in that there is always a correlation between election and the money contributed (Office of Democracy and Governance 9). Larry Northup, in his article entitled, ‘Money Matters: Political Action Committees and the Legislative Process,’ says that although money pays for campaigns, it’s votes that get people elected, and hence PACs must also have a program of mutually supporting grassroots activities which may include frequent personal contact with elected leaders; public endorsements of candidates’ positions; demonstrations of grassroots power through mail/phone campaigns, and political education by employers in order to be effective means of lobbying their interests (Northup 1).
Hence, the funding is not the only consideration which can influence policy making, it must also have the support of voters down who in the end will give the results during elections. In a study conducted by Ulf Petterson, he concluded that “corporations do affect policy by using money in networks and combining it with resources of other actors” (Pettersson 1). He says that direct evidence of quid-pro-quo deals is not needed anymore (Petterson 1). He also explains that it is easy to find descriptions of how these companies in pharmaceutical industry managed to get the legislation they had in mind by lobbying on similar legislation (Petterson 1). He says that “on several instances there is evidence of legislative deals concerning patents, benefiting Pfizer or other prescription drug manufacturers” (Pettersson 1).
He further discloses that there is evidence of direct quid-pro-quo deals concerning the pharmaceutical industry and campaign contributions (Pettersson1). He relates that “in a leaked letter, the RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson directly offered legislation for money” (Petterson 1) Thus, citing a letter which discussed the legislative needs of the pharmaceutical industry he cites the letter containing “We must keep the lines of communication open if we want to continue passing legislation that will benefit your industry” and suggested a $250, 000 donation” (Pettersson 1). Also a leaked DNC Finance Call Sheet registered a call to pharmaceutical Glaxo discussing patent rights law and contributions (Pettersson 1).
Observations and Conclusion As one can observe from the above instances, money contributions indeed influence how policies especially in the legislative process is affected. Contributions have been used to influence these policy makers to enact a law which would benefit interest groups or companies. Although there are still those who defend PACs as merely instruments of representative democracy as Sorauf states, one cannot deny the fact that there has been pressure among these groups or else, they would not get the support they need when the next election comes. In some instances however, it is not enough that it supports a particular interest.
The particular issue that is lobbied and intended for legislation must supported at the grassroots level from whom the real votes come from. Although not entirely considered that the money contributed in campaign funding goes to corruption and influence, nevertheless it tends to do so. This is not at all democratic. Instead of representing interests of every citizen, it represents only the interests of a few. Although lobbying is a legitimate exercise, it should not compromise another sector or group. Policy making should be aimed at providing basic services to its citizens as a whole, providing for laws which would benefit a greater number in order to improve the quality of life.
Furthermore, there must be limits on campaign funding as well as spending. This would contribute not only as to how elections are done but also would enable to focus on issues that are needed for legislation and which must be provided for people. This would also enlighten people as to how candidates react to particular issues and thus vote those people with integrity and who is aware of the real issues at hand to office. Thus, money should not be the primary source of government legislation but also defining issues that would benefit the people in general.
Northup, Larry. Money Matters: Political Action Committees and the Legislative Process. 2001. Retrieved on 7 December 2006 from http://www.aftermarket.org/Information/Aftermarket_Insider/money_matters.asp