Democracies in the world have adopted various mechanisms to advance and sustain their democratic processes. One of the elements is the incorporation of campaign processes to allow the people to elect their representatives in a manner that is deemed free, fair, and representative of the interests of the populace. In this regard, campaigns form the core element of representative democracy since elective positions can only be won through support from the general public. The general perception is that the quality and strength of democracy is determined the consequent quality of campaigns; whereby, people with the best interest of their supports coupled with stringent legibility qualifications are elected.
However, the competitive nature of electoral processes has led many candidates to seek resource intensive strategies to enhance their success rates through elaborate campaign programs. Over the decades, political aspirants have sought funding for their campaigns since they cannot afford its entire budget and compete successfully. In America, for instance, more than 3 billion dollars were spent on federal elections. Candidates who took office in the House of Representatives spent approximately 1.4 million dollars per person, and Senate winners spent an approximate 9.7 million dollars . Similarly, the presidential campaign of Obama in 2008 spent 730 million with McCain spending 330 million in the same election.
These amounts are illustrative of the significant investment requirements that candidates must meet in addition to advancing their party ideologies, personal development agendas, and other forms of interest relating to the electorate. Achieving the immense financial goals has led to the concept of campaign funding from various stakeholders with diverse interests within the political landscape. Campaign funding is a somewhat controversial topic because proponents perceive its criticality in equating candidates from the resource standpoint. On the other hand, opponents have given their concerns about malicious contributions meant to skew political processes in favor of candidates with the resources necessary to undertake expensive campaigns.
The problem of campaign funding originated from some entities seeking to fund candidates who are aligned with their interests even if they are against the needs of the electorate. Though regular Americans write checks of as little as one dollar to their preferred candidates, the problem is with other entities who provide massive funding and campaign resources. Some of these entities include corporations, nonprofit agencies, advocacy groups, and individuals with significant financial abilities. The nature of their contributions and political agendas have caused concerns when they engage in campaign funding; hence, the need to regulate their extent of funding political processes.
According to , individual contributions including corporations and interest groups have been known to offer contributions of at least 5,000 dollars to fund their preferred politicians either for the election of reelection. In the same research, Barber has cited aspects such as paying for political advertisements, provision of physical resources, and remittance of money into campaign accounts as part of the funding processes. The question about this forms of funding is about the intent of the funders in relation to influencing political processes by ensuring candidates who have similar partisan interests win.
The same concerns have been highlighted by that people give money for campaigns in order to access elected officials and derive favors from the political position they hold. In fact, many people make notable contributions so as to build political networks and relations with politicians who subsequently offer help in their personal undertakings. In other words, refers to this as a “quid pro quo” relationship where a “give and take tradition” has developed in the American political landscape; hence, his conclusion that money is the one that rules elections within America.
and have also introduced the concept of “dark money” among the sources of campaign funding. This phenomenon involves funneling of millions of dollars into political campaigns and their sources are not disclosed to scrutiny. The rationale of non-disclosure of donors is indicative of mischief and malicious intent in a political process that is supposed to be fair, free, and representative of public interests. The existence of these incidences is due to legal loopholes in the current disclosure laws providing opportunities for resource capable entities to proliferate into democratic processes and tamper with their integrity.
Based on the afore-discussion, it is justified to outline that campaign funding needs stringent regulation in the aspect of funding outside federal sources. Although there are rules on federal funding in relation to the provision of hard money, there are loopholes on the regulation of soft money where there are no limitations. In the research by , the current law excepts contributions that are used for party building instead of specific candidates. For instance, there is no limitation on soft money that is spent on party advisements such as stickers, posters, and marketing in mass media as long as it does not mention a candidate explicitly.
Thus, the importance of regulating campaign funding on the above aspects to ensure that parties are not interfered with through such funding as it denies citizens their right to elect candidates who best represent them. The same concept of soft money is the one encouraging contributions through methods such as the “dark money” concept, as well as group and individual remittances indirectly to favor certain parties and candidates with specific ideologies, agenda, and partisan interests. Therefore as explained by , the current regulations are deficient and they need improvement so as to guarantee the strength and quality of the American democracy.