Alleged campaign-finance abuses by Democrats and Republicans
alike have emerged as a major issue in the closing weeks of the
presidential campaign, sparking new calls for reform.
But calls for reform - either by politicians or by the public -
may hit a snag because of consistent opposition to reform measures
by a majority of the US Supreme Court.
Since the 1970s, the high court has ruled repeatedly that the
Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and political association
for campaign contributors and candidates. These freedoms, the court
has ruled, outweigh the risk of corruption to the political process
from large campaign contributions and the influence of special
The court agrees that corporate contributions can be regulated.
But the justices have refused to extend similar restrictions to
political action committees (PACs) - major conduits for campaign
contributions - or to independent expenditures of so-called "soft
money" by political parties.
"We are not aware of any special dangers of corruption
associated with political parties that tip the constitutional
balance in a different direction," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in
a June 1996 majority decision that, in effect, paved the way for
the ballooning amounts of soft money contributed to political
parties during the current campaign season.
The debate over campaign-finance reform has historically been
dominated by advocacy groups such as Common Cause. The group seeks
to limit what it views as attempts by wealthy individuals and
organizations to literally buy political influence by making
Dole boards the bandwagon
This week GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole joined in the call
for reform. He is hoping that press reports about questionable
fund-raising activities by the Democratic National Committee (DNC)
will help propel him into the White House.
President Clinton is countering by accusing Mr. Dole of engaging
in questionable fund-raising of his own. A Clinton campaign
advertisement says Dole and the Republican Party accepted $2.4
million in contributions from foreign oil, tobacco, and drug
companies. Contributions from foreign citizens or companies are
illegal under US election laws.
This newest debate over campaign-finance tactics has arisen
after press accounts of the fund-raising activities of John Huang,
a former Commerce Department official who is on paid leave from his
campaign-finance job at the DNC. …