The fox passes acts to watch the hen house…

The Tillman Act of 1907 was the first legislation in the United States prohibiting contributions from corporations  and unions to national political campaigns. More regulations were added in 1910, with subsequent amendments in 1925, with the Federal Corrupt Practices Act. This was followed in 1943 with the Smith-Connally Act and again in 1947 with the Taft-Hartley Act. All were focused on regulating union and corporate spending in federal campaigns and public disclosure of donors. While all these Acts were on the books, there was never a government agency tasked with enforcement (similar to having a speed limit sign on a desert highway with no cops).  

In 1971, Congress consolidated its earlier reform efforts in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), instituting more stringent disclosure requirements for federal candidates, political parties and Political action committees (PACs). This was later amended in 1974 to set limits on contributions by PACs, individuals, political parties, and also established the Federal Election Commission (FEC) – the first independent agency that would be tasked to enforce campaign finance Acts.

In 2002, Congress made major revisions to the FECA in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, more commonly referred to as “McCain-Feingold.” However, major portions of McCain-Feingold were later struck down by the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.  In June 2008, the “millionaire’s amendment,” a section of the act that attempted to provide a fairness through increasing campaign contributions for candidates who were being substantially outspent by opponents using their own personal wealth, was overturned by the Supreme Court in Davis v. Federal Election Commission. Senator McCain consistently voiced concern over campaign practices and their funding.

“Questions of honor are raised as much by appearances as by reality in politics, and because they incite public distrust, they need to be addressed no less directly than we would address evidence of expressly illegal corruption…By the time I became a leading advocate of campaign finance reform, I had come to appreciate that the public’s suspicions were not always mistaken. Money does buy access in Washington, and access increases influence that often results in benefiting the few at the expense of the many.” Senator John McCain, 2002.

B-I-N-G-O! And 18 years later it’s only gotten worse.

This is part 2 of the “Democracy Dies” series, covering the corruption surrounding PACS, SuperPACs, and how candidates pay for votes. To read part 1, go to https://altraged.com/2020/10/23/if-no-one-is-around-does-democracy-make-a-sound-when-it-dies-part-1/

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