National Study: Money in Politics Review

In 2015-2016, the League of Women Voters conducted a study of our position on campaign finance for the purpose of addressing the lack of member understanding and agreement as to whether financing a political campaign is protected speech under the First Amendment. 

League Study

LWVUS Money in Politics Review Meeting in a Box includes background reading list, and all issue papers for the Money in Politics Review.

Consensus

The campaign finance position was updated through the study and consensus process to consider 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 how those rights, if any, should be protected and reconciled with the interests set out in the current position.

Money in Politics Review Consensus Questions with links to background papers.

Revised LWVUS Position on Money in Politics

Adopted April 2016

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the methods of financing political campaigns should:

  • Enhance political equality for all citizens;
  • Ensure maximum participation by citizens in the political process;
  • Protect representative democracy from being distorted by big spending in election campaigns;
  • Provide voters sufficient information about candidates and campaign issues to make informed choices;
  • Ensure transparency and the public’s right to know who is using money to influence elections;
  • Enable candidates to compete equitably for public office;
  • Ensure that candidates have sufficient funds to communicate their messages to the public; and
  • Combat corruption and undue influence in government.

The League believes that political corruption includes the following:

  • A candidate or officeholder agrees to vote or work in favor of a donor’s interests in exchange for a campaign contribution;                
  • An officeholder or staff gives greater access to donors; 
  • An officeholder votes or works to support policies that reflect the preferences of individuals or organizations in order to attract contributions from them;       
  • A candidate or office holder seeks political contributions implying that there will be retribution unless a donation is given; and
  • The results of the political process consistently favor the interests of significant campaign contributors.

In order to achieve the goals for campaign finance regulation, the League supports:

  • Public financing of elections, either voluntary or mandatory, in which candidates must abide by reasonable spending limits;
  • Enhanced enforcement of campaign finance laws that includes changes to ensure that regulatory agencies are properly funded, staffed, and structured to avoid partisan deadlock in the decision-making process;
  • Abolishing Super PACs and abolishing spending coordinated or directed by candidates (other than a candidate’s own campaign committee); and
  • Restrictions on direct donations and bundling by lobbyists, which may include monetary limits as well as other regulations.
  • Until full public financing of elections is enacted, limits on election spending are needed in order to meet the League’s goals for protecting democratic processes. Among the different entities that spend money to influence elections, the League supports the following comparative limits:
  • Higher spending limits for political parties, genuinely non-partisan voter registration and get-out-the-vote organizations and activities, and candidates spending money raised from contributors;
  • Mid-level spending limits for individual citizens (including wealthy individuals), Political Action Committees (with funds contributed by individuals associated with the sponsoring organization, such as employees, stockholders, members and volunteers), and candidates spending their own money;
  • Lower spending limits for trade associations, labor unions and non-profit organizations from their general treasury funds;
  • Severely restricted spending by for-profit organizations spending from their corporate treasury funds; and
  • No limits on spending by bona fide newspapers, television, and other media, including the Internet, except to address partisan abuse or use of the media to evade campaign finance regulations.

Money in Politics Review Committee