Campaign Finance Reform

The impact of money on politics has become increasingly pronounced as a 2012 chart by Mother Jones makes clear

States, cities and the federal government have tried in various ways to curb the corrupting influence of money on political elections and political decision making.  But these laws have almost always been overturned by the US Supreme Court, beginning with its famous 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valleo that money is speech and therefore curbs on campaign spending violate the First Amendment.

Nevertheless, states and some cities continue to try to defend the foundation of democracy—one person, one vote–by curbing the power of money on elections.



Campaign Finance Reform – Alaska Limit on Out-of-State Contributions

In 1996 the Alaska Legislature adopted a campaign finance reform law that banned contributions from business and unions and capped campaign contributions at $500 per individual. The new law also put a cap on the contributions that a candidate for governor, lieutenant governor or state legislator could receive from individuals not living in Alaska.… Read More

Campaign Finance Reform – Arizona

In Arizona, candidates who agree to accept very low amounts of private money receive a fixed and limited amount of public funds. A five-member, non-partisan election commission with real authority to enforce election laws administers the system.… Read More

Campaign Finance Reform – Buckley v. Valeo

The US Supreme Court's 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo constitutes a central obstacle to effective campaign finace reform. The ruling does this in two ways: First, equating money with speech, the decision prohibited governments from imposing spending limits on candidates.… Read More

Campaign Finance Reform – Colorado Contribution Limits

In 2002, Colorado voters approved Amendment 27 by a 2-to-1 margin to enact comprehensive campaign finance reform for state-level political campaigns. A coalition of groups, including the League of Women Voters of Colorado, Colorado Common Cause, Reclaim Democracy, and Voter Revolt helped develop and supported the grassroots reform measure under the campaign slogan "Get Big Money Out of Politics".… Read More

Campaign Finance Reform – Connecticut

In the wake of numerous high-profile state and municipal campaign scandals, the Connecticut legislature, in 2005, established the Citizens Election Program and corresponding Citizen Election Fund to publicly finance statewide elections. In 2006, the law was amended to correct flaws that added an unnecessary step for minority party candidates.… Read More

Campaign Finance Reform – Local Rules

Over 80 local governments have passed some form of campaign finance legislation. The National Civic League has compiled an Inventory of Local Reforms of those it knows about. Over half of those reforms have been enacted since 1990 and it is likely that there are more reforms out there yet to be discovered.… Read More

Campaign Finance Reform – Maine

Maine's campaign finance law, known as the Clean Elections Act is different from those in other states because those who agree to accept public funding must forego any private contributions (beyond a small amount of "seed money" and qualifying contributions) and run an entirely "clean" campaign.… Read More

Campaign Finance Reform – Massachusetts

This Massachusetts law was passed by ballot initiative in 1998, but repealed by the legislature as part of a budget package in 2003. Governor Mitt Romney and legislators argued that expenditures for public finance of campaigns could not be justified in a time of state budget shortfalls.… Read More

Campaign Finance Reform – Model Rule

This organization is dedicated to helping enact sweeping campaign finance reform and reduce the role of special interest money in elections. This is their model rule for clean election reform.… Read More

Campaign Finance Reform – Nixon v. Shrink

Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC is the first Supreme Court ruling on contribution limits since since 1976, when in the landmark decision Buckley vs. Valeo , 424 U.S. 1 it said free-speech rights trump any attempt to limit a candidate's spending.… Read More

Campaign Finance Reform – North Carolina

In 2002 North Carolina's legislature adopted a measure that provides for public financing of judicial campaigns, as well as a nonpartisan elections system for supreme court justices and appeals court judges. This is the first such program in the nation for judicial elections.… Read More

Campaign Finance Reform – Oregon

Oregon's 1994 Ballot Measure 6 amended the state constitution to allow candidates to "use or direct only contributions which originate from individuals who at the time of their donation were residents of the electoral district of the public office sought by the candidate."(Oregon Constitution Art. II, § 22) It imposed a 10 percent cap on the total amount of money a candidate could accept from contributors residing outside the district.… Read More

Campaign Finance Reform – Vermont

The Vermont clean election law offers a public financing option to candidates running for governor and lieutenant governor in the year 2000, and commissions a study to consider extending the option to other state offices after the 2000 elections.… Read More

Constitutional Right to Health Care – Massachusetts

In July 2004, State legislators took the first step toward a constitutional amendment to "ensure that no Massachusetts resident lacks comprehensive, affordable and equitably financed health insurance..." The legislature needed to vote again during the 2005-2006 session on whether to allow the initiative to appear on the statewide election ballot. They did indeed act and passed a bill in April 2006. On July 12, 2006, the legislature voted 118-76 to send the amendment to constitutional committee for study. This will delay the ability for this to appear on the November 2006 ballot, but advocates hope that it will be on the November 2008 ballot.… Read More

Equity in School Finance – Maryland

Maryland's legislature enacted a new education finance system in 2002. It provides for $1.3 billion annually in additional school funding, and targets this increase to districts with lower wealth and more high-need students. Maryland is one of the first states to reform its school finance system based on the cost of providing every student with the opportunity to achieve the state's achievement standards.… Read More
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David Morris

David Morris is co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and currently ILSR's distinguished fellow. His five non-fiction books range from an analysis of Chilean development to the future of electric power to the transformation of cities and neighborhoods.  For 14 years he was a regular columnist for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. His essays on public policy have appeared in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, Washington PostSalonAlternetCommon Dreams, and the Huffington Post.