MONEY IN POLITICS CONSENSUS QUESTIONS

With Links to MIP Committee Papers

This update on Money In Politics builds on the League’s current position on campaign finance.  The consensus questions in Part I address the goals of campaign finance regulation in terms of democratic values.  The questions in Part II relate to the extent to which First Amendment protections like free speech and freedom of the press should apply to various speakers and activities in the campaign finance context.  Part III asks about methods of campaign finance regulation. You are asked to respond to the questions without regard for the Supreme Court’s current views on the First Amendment. In responding to each question, please interpret the words in their most general sense. Keep in mind that the LWV intentionally words positions that are derived from member study in the broadest possible way so that our positions have relevance for many years. Future national Boards will determine when and how to apply our positions.

An optional comment section is included at the end of each of the three parts. Please note that while comments will be read and considered, only responses to questions can be tabulated.

Because issues around Money in Politics and its First Amendment implications are so complex, there is some overlap in the topics covered in the background papers. For each of the three question parts below we have matched papers to provide helpful background information on those topics. All of the readings can be found at http://forum.lwv.org/category/member-resources/our-work/money-politics-review .

PART I QUESTIONS: Democratic Values and Interests with Respect to Financing Political Campaigns

Background Readings

Here are readings that provide background on the issues that the Part I questions are asking about:

1. What should be the goals and purposes of campaign finance regulation?  (Please respond to each item in Question 1.)

a.  Seek political equality for all citizens.

                                ☐ Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

b.  Protect representative democracy from being distorted by big spending in election campaigns.

                                ☐ Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

c.  Enable candidates to compete equitably for public office.

                                ☐ Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

d.  Ensure that candidates have sufficient funds to communicate their messages to the public.

                                ☐ Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

e.  Ensure that economic and corporate interests are part of election dialogue.

                                ☐ Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

f.  Provide voters sufficient information about candidates and campaign issues to make informed choices.

                                ☐ Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

g.  Ensure the public’s right to know who is using money to influence elections.  

                                ☐ Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

h.  Combat corruption and undue influence in government.

                                ☐ Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

2. Evaluate whether the following activities are types of political corruption: (Please respond to each item in Question 2.)

  1. A candidate or officeholder agrees to vote or work in favor of a donor’s interests in exchange for a campaign contribution.

                                ☐ Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

 b.   An officeholder or her/his staff gives greater access to donors.

                              ☐ Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

c.   An officeholder votes or works to support policies that reflect the preferences of individuals or organizations in order to attract contributions from them.

                                ☐  Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

 d.  An office holder seeks political contributions implying that there will be retribution unless a donation is given.

                                ☐  Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

 e.   The results of the political process consistently favor the interests of significant campaign contributors.

                                ☐  Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

OPTIONAL COMMENTS (250 word limit):

PART II QUESTIONS:  First Amendment Protections for Speakers and Activities in Political Campaigns

This set of questions is designed to determine the extent to which the First Amendment protections of free speech and freedom of the press should apply to different speakers or activities in the regulation of campaign finance.  Free speech and free press provide essentially the same protections to speakers, writers, publishers and advertising, whether or not they are part of the institutional press, and largely regardless of the medium.  Essentially, these protections extend to any conduct that is expressive.   Many of the options below would be found unconstitutional by the current Supreme Court, but we are seeking your League’s views, not those of the Court.  These are broad, overarching questions about spending to influence an election, including independent spending, contributions to candidates, broadcast news and other communication expenditures.   

Background Readings

Here are readings that provide background on the issues that the Part II questions ask about:

. Many different individuals and organizations use a variety of methods to communicate their views to voters in candidate elections.  Should spending to influence an election by any of the following be limited?(Please respond to each item in Question 1.)

a.  Individual citizens, including wealthy individuals like George Soros and the Koch Brothers.

            ☐ Spending banned    ☐ Some spending limits    ☐ Unlimited spending     ☐ No consensus

b.  Political Action Committees, sponsored by an organization, such as the League of Conservation Voters, Chevron, the American Bankers Association, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), whose campaign spending comes from contributions by individuals associated with the sponsoring organization, such as employees, stockholders, members and volunteers.

            ☐ Spending banned    ☐ Some spending limits    ☐ Unlimited spending     ☐ No consensus

c.  For-profit organizations, like Exxon, Ben and Jerry’s, General Motors, and Starbucks, from their corporate treasury funds.

            ☐ Spending banned    ☐ Some spending limits    ☐ Unlimited spending     ☐ No consensus

d.  Trade associations, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Wind Energy Association, and the American Petroleum Institute, from the association’s general treasury funds.

            ☐ Spending banned    ☐ Some spending limits    ☐ Unlimited spending     ☐ No consensus

e.  Labor unions, like the United Autoworkers and Service Employees International, from the union’s general treasury funds.

            ☐ Spending banned    ☐ Some spending limits    ☐ Unlimited spending     ☐ No consensus

f.  Non-profit organizations, like the Sierra Club, Wisconsin Right to Life, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, American Crossroads, and Priorities USA, from the organization’s general treasury funds.

            ☐ Spending banned    ☐ Some spending limits    ☐ Unlimited spending     ☐ No consensus

g.  Non-partisan voter registration and GOTV (get out the vote) organizations and activities, like the LWV and Nonprofit Vote.

            ☐ Spending banned    ☐ Some spending limits    ☐ Unlimited spending     ☐ No consensus

h.  Political parties, like the Republicans, Libertarians, and Democrats.

            ☐ Spending banned    ☐ Some spending limits    ☐ Unlimited spending     ☐ No consensus

i.   Candidates for public office spending money the candidate has raised from contributors.

            ☐ Spending banned    ☐ Some spending limits    ☐ Unlimited spending     ☐ No consensus

j.  Candidates for public office spending their own money.

            ☐ Spending banned    ☐ Some spending limits    ☐ Unlimited spending     ☐ No consensus

2The press plays a major role in candidate elections through editorial endorsements, news coverage, and other communications directly to the public that are often important to the outcome.  Should such spending to influence an election by any of the following be limited?

(Please respond to each item in Question 2.)

a.  Newspapers, like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

            ☐ Spending banned    ☐ Some spending limits    ☐ Unlimited spending     ☐ No consensus

b.   Television and other electronic media, like Fox News, CNN. MSNBC and CBS.

            ☐ Spending banned    ☐ Some spending limits    ☐ Unlimited spending     ☐ No consensus

c.   Internet communications, like Huffington Post, Breitbart, Daily Kos, and individual bloggers.

            ☐ Spending banned    ☐ Some spending limits    ☐ Unlimited spending    ☐ No consensus

OPTIONAL COMMENTS (250 word limit):

 

PART III QUESTIONS:  Methods for Regulating Campaign Finance to Protect the Democratic Process

Background Readings

Here are readings that provide background on the issues that the Part III questions are asking about:

In order to achieve the goals for campaign finance regulation, should the League support?  (Please respond to each item in Question 1 a and b.)

      a.   Abolishing SuperPACs and spending coordinated or directed by candidates, other than a candidate’s own single campaign committee.

                                          ☐  Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

      b.   Restrictions on direct donations and bundling by lobbyists? (Restrictions may include monetary limits as well as other regulations.)

                                          ☐  Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

      c.   Public funding for candidates?   Should the League support: (You may respond to more than one item in Question 1 c.)

i.   Voluntary public financing of elections where candidates who choose to participate must also abide by reasonable spending limits?

                                          ☐  Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

ii.   Mandatory public financing of elections where candidates must participate and abide by reasonable spending limits?

                                          ☐  Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

      iii.   Public financing without spending limits on candidates? 

                                          ☐  Agree     ☐  Disagree     ☐  No consensus

2.  How should campaign finance regulations be administered and enforced? (You may choose more than one response for Question 2.)

            ☐ a.  By an even-numbered commission with equal representation by the two major political parties to ensure partisan fairness (current Federal Election Commission [FEC] structure)?

☐ b.  By an odd-numbered commission with at least one independent or nonpartisan commissioner to ensure decisions can be made in case of partisan deadlock?

☐ c. By structural and budget changes to the FEC (e.g., commission appointments, staffing, security, budget, decision making process) that would allow the agency to function effectively and meet its legislative and regulatory mandates.

            ☐ d.  No consensus.

OPTIONAL COMMENTS (250 word limit):

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