Issues: Campaign Finance (LWVUS)
LWVUS Position In Brief
Improve methods of financing political campaigns in order to ensure the public's right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office and promote citizen participation in the political process.
Note: This position is applicable to all federal campaigns for public office, primaries as well as general elections and may be applied to state and local campaigns.
Read the complete position on the LWVUS website.
Local leagues around the United States are engaging in information gathering and consensus around two LWVUS studies. Here are LWVUS links to both:
Money in Politics:
State of Illinois
In the fall of 2009, the Illinois General Assembly passed and the Governor signed SB 1466 (PA 96-0832). This legislation that took effect on January 1, 2011, fundamentally changes the way Illinois regulates how money is used to influence politics. Specifically the law contains:
A goal of the League’s campaign finance reform strategy is to build support for public financing as the best long-term solution for having open and honest elections and for maximum citizen participation in the political process. A state Campaign Finance Reform Task Force was also created by PA96-0832. The Task Force is charged with reviewing the implementation of campaign finance reform legislation and looking at the feasibility of implementing a “clean money” campaign system – that would subsidize political campaigns in exchange for voluntary adherence to specified expenditure limitations. At a December 15, 2011 Task Force hearing the LWVIL presented testimony in support of public financing of elections. The LWVIL urged the Task Force to recommend that the General Assembly consider a system of public financing that will be open, fair and restore the trust of the public in elections in Illinois and in their state government. The League suggested that public financing in Illinois start with judicial elections because judges do not have constituencies and must be impartial and not subjected to political influences in making their decisions which should be based on law, evidence and facts of individual cases.
Testimony before the Illinois Campaign Finance Reform Task Force is here.
The LWVUS is asking US Representatives to cosponsor the DISCLOSE 2012 Act (Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections) that will require complete disclosure of spending on big-money advertising in candidate elections.
In Citizens United v. FEC (January, 2010), the US Supreme Court ruled that in the electoral context the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives corporations, like people, free speech protections and spending money is a form of speech. The Court held that there is no difference under the law between an individual citizen and a multinational corporation (or any other corporation) when it comes to independent expenditures. Corporations and unions are now able to pay for television advertisements that directly call for the election or defeat of political candidates out of their treasury funds. Enhanced disclosure is the most basic step toward protecting the role of voters and ensuring that they can make informed decisions.
The LWVUS is urging President Obama to nominate new commissioners to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). In this important election year, new Super PACs are flooding elections with huge expenditures from million-dollar donors. Because they are supposedly “independent” from the candidates and with new loopholes from the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts from corporations and individuals, and they can do so with limited disclosure. Among other duties, the FEC can define what election efforts are “independent” from the candidates. The FEC is supposed to enforce campaign finance laws, but it is dysfunctional. Of the six commissioners at the agency, three of them staunchly refuse to enforce the law and five of the six are serving despite expired terms.
LWVUS ACTION on Money in Elections including Disclosure and FEC Nominations can be found here.
To learn more, please contact the LWVIL Issues Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.