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 Collection: Congressional Research Service Reports
Campaign Finance: Constitutional and Legal Issues of Soft Money

Campaign Finance: Constitutional and Legal Issues of Soft Money

Date: July 21, 2004
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Description: Prior to enactment of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), P.L. 107-155, the term “soft money” generally referred to unregulated funds, perceived as resulting from loopholes in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), 2 U.S.C. §§ 431 et seq. Generally, the intent of BCRA, (effective Nov. 6, 2002), which amends FECA, is to restrict the raising and spending of soft money. This Issue Brief discusses constitutional and legal issues surrounding two major types of soft money that BCRA regulates: political party soft money and soft money used for issue advocacy communications. Corporate and labor union soft money, which FECA exempts from regulation and is not addressed by BCRA, is also discussed.
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Campaign Finance Law and the Constitutionality of the "Millionaire's Amendment": An Analysis of Davis v. Federal Election Commission

Campaign Finance Law and the Constitutionality of the "Millionaire's Amendment": An Analysis of Davis v. Federal Election Commission

Date: July 17, 2008
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Description: In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), also known as the McCain-Feingold law, establishing increased contribution limits for congressional candidates whose opponents significantly self-finance their campaigns. This provision is frequently referred to as the "Millionaire's Amendment." The Court found that the burden imposed on expenditures of personal funds is not justified by the compelling governmental interest of lessening corruption or the appearance of corruption and, therefore, held that the law is unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment.
Contributing Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy

Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy

Date: March 12, 2001
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Description: Issue advocacy communications have become increasingly popular in recent federal election cycles. These advertisements are often interpreted to favor or disfavor certain candidates, while also serving to inform the public about a policy issue. However, unlike communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, the Supreme Court has determined that issue ads are constitutionally protected First Amendment speech that cannot be regulated in any manner. According to most lower court rulings, only speech containing express words of advocacy of election or defeat, also known as "express advocacy" or "magic words" can be regulated and therefore be subject to the requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Unlike express advocacy communications, therefore, issue ads may be paid for with funds unregulated by federal law, i.e., soft money.
Contributing Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy

Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy

Date: May 15, 1998
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Description: Issue advocacy communications have become increasingly popular over the federal election cycles. Often these advertisements could be interpreted to favor or disfavor certain candidates, while also serving to inform the public about a policy issue. However, unlike communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, the Supreme Court has ruled that issue ads are constitutionally protected First Amendment speech and cannot be regulated.
Contributing Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy

Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy

Date: March 15, 2002
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Description: Issue advocacy communications have become increasingly popular over the federal election cycles. Often these advertisements could be interpreted to favor or disfavor certain candidates, while also serving to inform the public about a policy issue. However, unlike communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, the Supreme Court has ruled that issue ads are constitutionally protected First Amendment speech and cannot be regulated in any manner. According to most lower court rulings, only speech containing express words of advocacy of election or defeat, also known as “express advocacy” or “magic words” can be regulated as election-related communications and therefore be subject to the requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Unlike express advocacy communications, therefore, issue ads may be paid for with funds unregulated by federal law, i.e., soft money
Contributing Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy

Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy

Date: July 10, 2001
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Description: Issue advocacy communications have become increasingly popular over the federal election cycles. Often these advertisements could be interpreted to favor or disfavor certain candidates, while also serving to inform the public about a policy issue. However, unlike communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, the Supreme Court has ruled that issue ads are constitutionally protected First Amendment speech and cannot be regulated in any manner. According to most lower court rulings, only speech containing express words of advocacy of election or defeat, also known as “express advocacy” or “magic words” can be regulated as election-related communications and therefore be subject to the requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Unlike express advocacy communications, therefore, issue ads may be paid for with funds unregulated by federal law, i.e., soft money
Contributing Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy

Campaign Finance Reform: A Legal Analysis of Issue and Express Advocacy

Date: July 10, 2001
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Description: Issue advocacy communications have become increasingly popular over the federal election cycles. Often these advertisements could be interpreted to favor or disfavor certain candidates, while also serving to inform the public about a policy issue. However, unlike communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, the Supreme Court has ruled that issue ads are constitutionally protected First Amendment speech and cannot be regulated in any manner. According to most lower court rulings, only speech containing express words of advocacy of election or defeat, also known as “express advocacy” or “magic words” can be regulated as election-related communications and therefore be subject to the requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Unlike express advocacy communications, therefore, issue ads may be paid for with funds unregulated by federal law, i.e., soft money
Contributing Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
Campaign Finance Reform and Incentives to Voluntarily Limit Candidate Spending From Personal Funds: Constitutional Issues Raised by Public Subsidies and Variable Contribution Limits

Campaign Finance Reform and Incentives to Voluntarily Limit Candidate Spending From Personal Funds: Constitutional Issues Raised by Public Subsidies and Variable Contribution Limits

Date: March 22, 2001
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Description: The Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo ruled that spending limits, including the amount a candidate can spend on his or her own campaign from personal funds (also known as personal fund expenditure limits) are unconstitutional. The Court did, however, uphold a system of spending limits, on the condition that they are voluntarily accepted in exchange for some form of public financing. As a result of these Court rulings, the concept of various incentives toward voluntary compliance with a personal funds expenditure limit has been developed. This report discusses some constitutional issues raised by two such incentives: public subsidies and variable contribution limits.
Contributing Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
Campaign Finance Reform: Constitutional Issues Raised by Disclosure Requirements

Campaign Finance Reform: Constitutional Issues Raised by Disclosure Requirements

Date: March 20, 2001
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Description: Campaign finance reform legislation often contains provisions that would impose additional reporting and disclosure requirements under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). For example, S. 27 (McCain/Feingold), would require disclosure of disbursements of expenditures over $10,000 for “electioneering communications,” which are defined to include broadcast ads that “refer” to federal office candidates, with identification of donors of $500 or more. S. 22 (Hagel/Landrieu) would increase and expedite current disclosure requirements under FECA. H.R. 380 (Shays/Meehan) would lower the current FECA threshold for contribution reporting from $200 to $50 and impose reporting requirements for soft money disbursements by persons other than political parties. This report will discuss some of the constitutional issues relating to these and other such disclosure requirements.
Contributing Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department
Campaign Finance Regulation Under the First Amendment: Buckley v. Valeo and its Supreme Court Progeny

Campaign Finance Regulation Under the First Amendment: Buckley v. Valeo and its Supreme Court Progeny

Date: August 28, 2003
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Description: This report first discusses the critical holdings enunciated bythe SupremeCourt in Buckley, including those: upholding reasonable contribution limits, striking down expenditure limits, upholding disclosure reporting requirements, and upholding the system of voluntary presidential election expenditure limitations linked with public financing. It then examines the Court’s extension of Buckley in fifteen subsequent cases, evaluating them in three regulatory contexts: contribution limits (California Medical Association v. FEC; Citizens Against Rent Control v. Berkeley; Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC; FEC v. Beaumont), expenditure limits (First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti; FEC v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life; Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce; FEC v. National Right to Work; Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee (Colorado I) v. FEC; FEC v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee (Colorado II); FEC v. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; FEC v. National Conservative Political Action Committee), and disclosure requirements (Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation; Brown v. Socialist Workers ‘74 Campaign Committee; FEC v. Akins; McIntrye v. Ohio Elections Commission).
Contributing Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department