Campaign Finance Reform: Regulating The Cost Of Free Elections
’’The events of Watergate" have led people to question the use of money in election campaigns. The use of large secret campaign contributions to finance illegal activities during the 1972 Presidential campaign and during the subsequent cover-up created a crisis--Americans became disenchanted with their electoral process--a disenchantment which struck at the very heart of our democratic system of government. Questions were asked, answers sought. Money was defined as the cause of the problem and campaign finance reform was defined as the answer. So, as is usual in crisis situations, the response to the crisis was a simple solution to a very complex problem. The fact is that there may be little or no relation between "the events of Watergate" and the reforms now being advocated. Lawmakers, social scientists, and others are advocating a series of social reforms aimed at cleansing the election process by preventing or alleviating abuses relating to the financing of election campaigns. Yet there is little or no data available supporting the contention that money is a major corrupting influence in our campaigns. The relationship between money and corruption of our electoral process is strained at best and those seeking to make a connection espouse a diversity of interests--seeking to cure everything from the flagrant, crimes of Watergate to "undue influence" which money might buy. While stopping obvious criminal activities which may occur during the course of an election campaign is presumably a goal with which no one would argue, controlling the "influence" that a citizen may exert over his elected officials is not necessarily a desirable goal. While illegal influence is easily defined and clearly undesirable, just what comprises "undue" influence? At what point does the influence a citizen may exert in the normal course of being represented by an elected official become undue influence? Reformers would have us believe that the answer to that question is "when money is used." However, that may not be true.