Soft Money “Whether the issue is consumer privacy, a Patients’ Bill of Rights, environmental pollution, or a prescription drug benefit for older Americans, soft money donors will get their opinions heard on Capitol Hill and at the White House. Soft money is drowning out the voices of average Americans — it is time to put an end to the corrupt soft money system” Common Cause President Scott Harshbarger At the basis of the campaign finance reform movement is the belief that everyone should have an equal say in the government, and that wealthy individuals or special interest groups should not be able to manipulate the system through excessive contributions to unduly influence elections. The more expensive it becomes to finance a campaign, the more important the money becomes, and subsequently the less involved the candidate becomes in listening to the “voices of the average Americans.
” The Federal Election Commission, established in 1974, was the first independent institution created to monitor and enforce the campaign finance reforms that were designed to limit [individual or corporate] contributions that would disproportionately influence a federal election. The Commission also tries to ensure that the campaign finance information is accessible to the public, because “disclosure .. is the single greatest check on the excesses of campaign finance,” (Sabato).Soft money, by definition, are the ‘non federal’ funds which are raised, and spent, outside of Federal Election Campaign Act’s borders. Campaign finance reform evolved in order to restrict and regulate the campaign funds, but the soft money loophole allows committees to establish a separate bank account for ‘nonfederal’ activities, which is not monitored by FECA.
Critics argue that the soft money system allows committees to save the federal funds that can be spent on federal elections, and that the system only furthers the influence of wealthy contributors on elections. On the other hand, others claim that federal regulation of soft money is “an unwarranted intrusion into the financing of non-federal elections” and fear that complex regulations will have “a chilling effect on grassroots electoral activity” (FEC). Since the 1980’s, critics of the soft money system have strived to close the perceived loophole. In 1984, Common Cause petitioned the Commission for stricter rules regarding soft money allocation, hoping to close the loophole.When the Commission concluded that the evidence of soft money abuse was insufficient to rationalize the suggested changes, Common Cause filed a suit that led to a Court order for the FEC to clarify its allocation regulations.
In 1990 the Commission approved of new regulations that would require all national party committees to provide full disclosure of the soft money accounts, and all committees (with federal and non federal accounts) to use specific formulas to “determine the amount of federal funds required to be spent for any activity that benefits both federal and non federal candidates” (FEC). While the Commission maintains that they have proceeded “as far as statutory authority would permit, short of barring the combined use of federal and nonfederal fund altogether” (FEC), others maintain that soft money is exactly what policy makers have intended to exclude from national elections since the early 1900’s. In 1907, the Tillman Act was enacted to prohibit national banks and corporations from donating money to political campaigns. The campaign finance reform laws from the 1907 Tillman Act to the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act have tried to control and limit campaign spending and funding, in effort so that special interest groups and wealthy individuals would not be able to use excessive contributions to influence federal elections.According to the Common Cause glossary, “Soft money is money that is illegal under federal law — it either violates federal source restrictions (such as money from corporations) or federal limits (such as large contributions from individuals in amounts often exceeding $100,000). Soft money undoubtedly influences our government.
National party committees are allowed to use the soft money funds for voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote campaigns, but these ads can easily be manipulated to influence presidential elections. Common Cause charges that “soft money contributions are laundered through the political parties in a way that allows federally illegal money to nonetheless be used to influence federal elections.” While corporations make large [soft money] donations to political parties, they are also lobbying for various legislation issues before Congress. Government.