The Principles

The purpose of a campaign is to let the voters know as much as possible about the candidates and the issues. The more money and resources that are put into a campaign the more information can be brought to more people. I believe that campaigns should spend as much as they can to get out their message. Even slanted information is still information. The principles of the free market apply to politics just as they do to economic life.

The Problem

Democrats and Republicans think you are too stupid to think for yourselves. They think that you should only have the "right" information from the "right" candidates. I believe that voters are very good at seeing through the lies, half-truths, and spin. As Will Rogers said, "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time but you can't fool all the people all the time."

In "Vannatta v Kiesling", the Oregon Supreme Court states that "elections ultimately are for the people, not the candidates." Clearly, to make good decisions, the voters must be as informed as possible, must be able to discuss the issues, and must be able to pool their resources to promote their views and support their candidates. The voters deserve an open marketplace of ideas in which they have the broadest range of choices and the most information to make those choices.

It was recognized at the very beginning of the US that the electoral process required two primary freedoms. These are freedom of speech and press and freedom of association. These are embodied in the First Amendment to the US Constitution and in Article I of the Oregon Constitution.

Implications to Free Speech

It is fundamental to this country that it's citizens have freedom of speech. In no area is this more important than in politics and government. It is primarily over concern of a tyrannical government repressing opposition speech that the First Amendment was conceived. Time and again the Supreme Court has found that freedom of speech includes the right to spend money to broadcast that speech.

The US Supreme Court has recognized that any laws limiting speech or action in the political area must pass a very stringent test. "Preventing or preventing appearance of corruption" is the single narrow exception allowed as stated in "Citizens Against Rent Control v Berkeley". This position has consistently been held by the court throughout the existence of the Union.

The Oregon Supreme Court has also held this position and, indeed, has even greater requirements. In "Vannatta v Kiesling", the Court states, " underlying assumption of the American electoral system always has been that, in spite of the temptations that contributions may create from time to time, those who are elected will put aside personal advantage and vote honestly and in the public interest." They recognize that politicians may be corrupt but deny that this is common and especially do not relate this corruption to campaign contributions.

Effects of Contribution Limits

Collecting many smaller contributions forces candidates to expend their resources collecting contributions rather than putting their ideas before the people. Incumbents spend more of their time chasing funds than serving the people. Contribution limits and excessive reporting requirements make it harder to get "into the game". This limits the capabilities of challengers and makes special interests more powerful rather than less.

Let's look at the most recent history of Campaign Finance Reform and it's effects. At the Federal level, modern reform started with the Federal Election Campaign Act in 1971 and amended in 1974. In 1976, in "Buckley v Valeo", the Court struck down many of the parts of the act based on First Amendment violations. Unfortunately, many of the provisions were left including the campaign contribution limitation of $1000. The result has been the development of Political Action Committees, contributions to which cannot be limited because of free speech issues, and so-called "soft money" or contributions to political parties, which are, again, protected. This contribution limitation has also, especially on the federal level, led to politicians becoming little more than full-time beggars instead of statesmen.

On November 8, 1994, the people of Oregon adopted initiative petition #6. This added Section 22 to Article II of the Oregon Constitution. It required that a candidate only use contributions from individuals who were residents of his electoral district. This measure was held to be unconstitutional by the Federal Court, the decision was upheld on appeal, and the Supreme Court denied certiori. This left the measure void. The reasons given were the same. It violated the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

At the same election, initiative petition #9 was also passed. This added certain provisions to Chapter 260 of Oregon's Code that limited contributions and sources of contributions to political campaigns. The Oregon Supreme Court found that these provisions violated Article I, Section 8 of the Oregon Constitution that guarantees free speech. Basically, the Oregon Court agreed with the US Court that contributions are a form of political speech. They also agreed that any limitation or restriction on contributions must meet very strict requirements.

Clearly, the courts of the land have determined that contributions to political campaigns are a form of political speech which is protected by the most fundamental laws of the land and the principles under which they were written.

Practical Effects

We have seen how so-called "Campaign Finance Reform", by which is mostly meant limitations and restrictions on campaign contributions, violate some of the basic principles on which this country was founded. What are the practical results of the Campaign Finance reforms so far?

What happens when the size of contributions are limited?

Collecting many smaller contributions forces candidates to expend their resources collecting contributions rather than putting their ideas before the people. Incumbents spend more of their time chasing funds than serving the people. Rather than making money less important, it becomes more important and consumes the time and attention of the candidates.

It becomes harder to get "into the game". If a new candidate could accept a few large contributions, he might be able to spend his time getting his message before the people rather than collecting money.

The power of special interest groups is enhanced. These groups run the gamut from environmentalists to unions, from churches to industries, from trial lawyers to minority organizations. These groups are not necessarily evil but their power is enhanced out of proportion to their membership because they can communicate with and encourage their members to contribute to a particular candidate. It is easier for a candidate, then, to make promises to the leaders of these organizations in return for their influence in persuading their members to contribute.

We see the results of this on the federal level. Candidates either are individually wealthy, are supported by special interests, or are marginalized by lack of funds and resources. We don't want this situation to happen in Oregon.

My Policy

I support eliminating individual contribution limits. I support a drastic reduction or elimination of campaign finance reporting requirements. I support an increase of the tax credit for political contributions and, especially, an elimination of the requirement that the candidate limit expenditures for contributors to receive the credit. I oppose, however, public funding of campaigns.


  1. Constitutional Issues Related to Campaign Finance Reform, Statement of Roger Pilon, Ph.D., J.D., Vice President for Legal Affairs, B. Kenneth Simon Chair in Constitutional Studies, Director, Center for Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute, Washington, D.C. before the Committee on House Administration United States House of Representatives
  2. Most Campaign Finance 'Reform' a Bad Idea
  3. Ten Big Lies about Campaign Finance Reform
  4. Why Campaign Finance Reform Never Works

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