The motivation behind campaign finance reform was to limit the influence of special interests. In what sense could that legislation have the opposite effect?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Those in favor of campaign finance reform argue that when limits are not in place, special interest groups and political action committees (PACs) are able to contribute the most to election campaigns in exchange for legislation to support their interests because politicians feel obligated to reciprocate for financial contribution. Supporters also argue that limiting financial campaign contributions creates a more even "playing field" because those in office already have an advantage, especially financially, over challengers ("Campaign Finance Reform: Unconstitutional?").

However, Dr. Herbert Alexander, a "nationally recognized expert on the issue of campaign reform," argues that it is "an affront to the integrity of ... elected officials to suggest their votes are 'bought' by their contributors" ("The Power of Money: The Ethics of Campaign Finance Reform"). He argues it's ridiculous to conclude that PAC contributions can buy special favors when there is already a $5,000 limit. What's more, if restrictions are placed, then special interests groups will simply turn to lobbyists rather than politicians; therefore, restricting campaign contributions really restricts nothing.

Alexander further argues that campaigns are currently "under-financed rather than over-financed" because challengers to incumbents need even more heavily financed campaigns to establish a name that holds more weight than the incumbent ("The Power of Money"). Therefore, placing restrictions on campaign financing will simply corrupt the system by making it even more difficult for challengers to be elected.

In a study conducted in 2003, three MIT scholars--Stephen Ansolabehere; James Snyder, Jr; and John de Figueiredo--concluded that "campaign contributions had no statistically significant effects on legislation" (as cited in "Campaign Finance Reform").

Bradley Smith, author of an article in National Affairs, further argues that "political activity and media coverage" significantly impact political decisions, and money is needed for both political activity and media coverage; therefore, limiting financial contributions only limits politics (as cited in "Campaign Finance Reform").

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