League of Women Voters | Rochester Metropolitan Area, Rochester, NY
Untitled Document

Money in Politics

Consensus Meeting
Tuesday, December 8 at 4 pm
Brighton Town Hall, Downstairs room

A meeting for members of LWV-RMA will be held to discuss and come to consensus on the proposed changes to the LWVUS position on Campaign Finance.

The Money in Politics committee will present information at the meeting, but we are also providing more detailed materials on our website to help members prepare for the meeting.

The questions are including in this reading material to help you formulate your opinion. However, because we come to consensus through discussion, attendance at the consensus meeting is necessary for your opinion to count.

I. Background

For the 2014-2016 biennium, the LWVUS Board recommended and the June 2014 LWVUS Convention adopted a multi-part program including, “A review and update of the League position on campaign finance in light of forty years of changes since the Watergate reforms, in order to enhance member understanding of the new schemes and structures used to influence elections and erode protections against corruption in our political process, and to review possible responses to counter them in the current environment.”

Current League Position on Campaign Finance

Statement of Position on Campaign Finance, adopted in 1974 and revised in 1982:

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the methods of financing political campaigns should ensure the public's right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office and allow maximum citizen participation in the political process. This position is applicable to all federal campaigns for public office — presidential and congressional, primaries as well as general elections. It also may be applied to state and local campaigns.

Click here for League Guiding Principles

Money In Politics Study and Consensus

So, why is the League updating the position on campaign finance?

Our current position dates back to the 1970s and predates Supreme Court decisions that changed campaign finance law significantly. The MIP Review and Update will address a gap in our current position. It aims to get League member understanding and agreement as to the extent to which our organization believes that financing a political campaign is speech protected by the First Amendment.

Our current position has enabled the League to advocate strongly for transparency in campaign finance and against big money and its influence on elections and government. But there are still questions to consider and this is why we are studying the issue:  What about the First Amendment interests of candidates and donors particularly as compared with equitable competition; preventing corruption and undue influence; enhancing voter participation? These are questions that the position update is considering.

Although the regulation of money in politics in the U.S. goes back more than 100 years, the Supreme Court rarely heard cases on campaign finance regulation before the 1970s. Since then, the First Amendment has been at the center of the campaign finance debate since the 1970s. A key provision says, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” To the Court, campaign speech (as opposed to campaign finance) is central to American democracy and is what the First Amendment was designed to protect.

The campaign finance position will be updated through a study and consensus process to consider:

1. The rights of individuals and organizations, under the First Amendment, to express their political views through independent expenditures and the finance of election campaign activities; and
2. how those rights, if any, should be protected and reconciled with the interests set out in the current position.

For a more detailed introduction, click here.

History of Campaign Finance Regulations click here.

What do those Money in Politics terms mean?

Unofficial definitions of some terms related to Money in Politics can be found in this glossary. Official definitions for many terms are found in the statutes dealing with campaign finance reporting. For example, many terms are defined in the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) compilation and index of federal election campaign laws at http://www.fec.gov/law/feca/feca.pdf.

The Supreme Court and Money and Politics

LWVUS has instructed to respond "without regard for the Supreme Court's current views on the First Amendment," or its current narrow definition of corruption. If you are interested in Supreme Court decisions related to Money in Politics, click here.

All information on the Money in Politics pages has been taken from materials provided by LWVUS.

Part I Question 1 and background material. Click here.
Part I Question 2 and background material. Click here.
Part II Questions 1 and 2 and background material. Click here.
Part III Questions 1 and 2 and background material. Click here.


P.O. Box 10573 · Rochester, NY · 14610
585.262.3730 · info@LWV-RMA.org