Whacking the Political Money “Mole” Without Whacking Speech: Accounting for Congressional Self-Dealing in Campaign Finance Reform After Wisconsin Right to Life

This note examines the current campaign financing scheme’s effec-tiveness in fighting campaign corruption and the significant restrictions these laws place on political speech. The author begins by chronicling the myriad of campaign finance scandals that plagued United States elections throughout the past century, as well as the hodgepodge of legislative reactions to these scandals that led many commentators to characterize campaign finance reform as a game of “Whack-a-Mole.” Beyond the legislation itself, the Supreme Court’s current framework for evaluating campaign finance restrictions is also problematic and tends to perpetuate incumbency and corruption while stifling political criticism. To combat these problems, the author proposes a heightened legal standard for evaluating campaign speech restrictions that requires members of Congress to justify any self-dealing legislation under the inherent fairness standard used in corporate law. Borrowing from the framework of corporate-finance disclosure laws, the author further recommends a shift from today’s ineffective, nebulous campaign finance model to a less restrictive scheme focused on disclosure and fueled by grassroots participation. By promoting transparency and accountability for campaign contributions, parties in interest will be forced out of the shadows, preventing campaign corruption and enabling voters to make informed decisions on Election Day.

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