American Politics Term Paper

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American Politics

When a successful capitalist republic engages in popular elections to determine the leadership of its governing body, the administrating rules regulating it are the nuts and bolts to which systematic legitimacy is inextricably tied. American history is wrought with the corruption that naturally surfaces from this heated competition; from dirty politics to lobby and corporate controllers, every election has been limned with the discoloring that comes from abandoning fair play. The role of the leadership, once elected, however, must be to maintain the integrity of the ideas for which the Constitution provides; not only for the security of its statutes and amendments, but also the core of ideas at its spirit. McConnell v. Federal Election Commission represents the importance of this responsibility in application; while the Supreme Court was split on partisan lines in its interpretation of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, the division was clearly defined by priorities of protection - protecting either the sanctity of the elections that allow for the government to run, or the system of laws that allow for the execution it provides.

McConnell v. Federal Election Commission is rooted in the deep sequence of twentieth century campaign reform. Most of this reform is particularly geared to financial expenditures and contributions, which, as the Opinion of the Court clearly states, are capable of coloring each election with airs of illegitimacy and corruption.

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Moreover, contribution limits are grounded in the important governmental interests in preventing 'both the actual corruption threatened by large financial contributions and the eroding of public confidence in the electoral process through the appearance of corruption." Federal Election Comm'n v. National Right to Work Comm., 459 U.S. 197, 208.

Term Paper on American Politics Assignment

The judicial branch has a long taken responsibility for judging the constitutional viability of congressional acts to curb the corruption capable in campaigns, recognizing that their review standard needed to not only meet the absolute doctrinal lines, but the spirit behind them that guides the country; id est, the Supreme Court is responsible for insuring that while Congress tries to regulate their own elections, they do not under-regulate to the point that it might be possible for corruption to exist or even seem to exist and they do not over-regulate to the point that the basic freedoms provided to those tax paying, election-contributing constituents are not suppressed.

Behind McConnell v. Federal Election Commission is a series of other efforts on behalf of lobbyists, leaders, legislators, and judiciaries to address these subtleties of campaign regulation and reform. In United States v. Automobile Workers 352 U.S. 567, 572, the Supreme Court held that the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and the Communications Act of 1934 must be applied in such a way as "to purge national politics of what [is] conceived to be the pernicious influence of 'big money' campaign contributions." (McConnell) Before that, Cromwell v. Benson and Buckley v. Valeo sought to address the same corruptions that can overwhelm or tarnish a political campaign that were clearly distinguished by the McCain-Feingold law of 2002.

The Court was evenly split in its decisions along party lines, in a 5:4 decision in which O'Conner held the swaying opinion. Each Justice was faced with the critical decision of determining the actuality of infringement by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) on First Amendment rights to free speech and the further regulation of soft money in political elections, particularly as they pertain to funneling federal campaigns directly before an election date. While some feared that the outcome of the decision would be so fractured in its acceptance and rejection of separate parts of the singular piece of legislation that it would ruin its function in practice, the Justices were able to preserve the spirit of the law by upholding its statutes in part.

The Supreme Court accepted 323(e) and 323(f). 323(e) forbids federal candidates and officeholders to "solicit, receive, direct, transfer, or spend" soft money in conjunction with their, or any other, federal election. 323(f) regulated public communications and the spending of contributions that directly influence federal elections through issue-based attack ads. The plaintiffs in the case argued that this aspect of the law infringed upon First Amendment rights, but the Justices held that this was viable "anticircumvention" protection that did not deny any First Amendment rights. The Justices who sided with this decision, including O'Conner and Stevens, said in their opinions that the argument of the plaintiffs was unpersuasive, and further affirmed the rights of the Court to uphold this decision with Tenth Amendment conformity. In staying these two aspects of the law in their decision, the Court remained true to the spirit of the law, directly prohibiting the use of suspicious funds for negative campaign activities immediately before the election.

While it affirmed the core two ideals of the law, the Court reversed sections 323 (a), 323(b), and 323(d). 323(a) was deemed to unconstitutionally interfere with the ability of communities to associate between the national, state, and local levels based on the concepts of financial statutory terms "spend," "receive," "direct," and "solicit." So long as national officers do not personally spend, receive, direct, or solicit soft money, the court left the FECA-ruled monies without further specification.

232(b) addresses this problem further, by dealing with the "important governmental interest of preventing corruption and its appearance." This area is further legislated by the Levin amendment, which carved out a special sanctum for federal election activities to be paid for by state and local campaigns for activities that do not involve voter registration activity during the 120 days before a federal election, voter identification, Get Out the Vote, generic campaign activity addressing a specific candidate. [441(b)(2)(B)(iii).] the Justices supported reversing the BRCA infringement upon these laws, and further supported the restrictions applied to the monies spent close to the election by state and local groups on federal campaigns or candidates. "If a voter registration drive does not specifically mention a federal candidate, state committees can take advantage of the Levin Amendment's higher contribution limits and relaxed source restrictions." Further restrictions were uplifted from federal workers personally spending their own resources and contribution caps, but the core of the decisive alteration was to focus the Levin Amendment in effect upon federal campaigns.

323(d) forbade national, state, and local party-centered committees to solicit funds for 501- tax exempt and 527 organizations in their conjunction with elections. Ultimately, the Justices deferred to the FECA rules, holding that it was necessary to follow another standard of procedures for these particular monies.

Because the record does not compel the conclusion that Congress intended 'donations to include donations from a party's hard money account, and because of the constitutional infirmities such an interpretation would raise, the Court narrowly construes 232(d) ban to apply only to donations not raised in compliance with FECA."

While the ban proved to the supporting Justices a legal means of anti-circumvention initiatives, they acknowledged the importance of donations as well as the validity of their solicitation restriction.

The decision of the court to limit soft money and attack ads as based on the necessary corruption prevention and its illusions of campaign deceit was split strictly down party lines. Ginsberg, Breyer, O'Conner, Souter, and Stevens stood firmly on the side of the modified upholding of the BRCA rules, while Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy, the right-wing faction of the Supreme Court, rejected it. The Opinion of Stevens and O'Conner cites the patriotic role of regulation to insure legal and free elections, harkening that "the 'sober-minded Elihu root' advocated legislation that would prohibit political contributions by corporations... To elect legislators who would 'vote for their protection and the advancement of their interest against those of the public." They firmly rejected a hierarchy of support in campaigns that pitted corporations above the public individual, and Breyer supported this limited role of broadcasters in influencing the popular vote. All typically liberal judiciaries, these judges inherently paid homage to the anti-corporation ideology of the Democratic party, while the Supreme Court Republican-minded Justices staunchly opposed the decision.

Justice Scalia proclaimed the passage of the BRCA affirmation a failure of the American system. "This is a sad day for the freedom of speech," he wrote in his Opinion.

Who could have imagined that the same court which, within the past four years, has sternly disapproved of restrictions upon which inconsequential forms of expression as virtual child pornography..., tobacco advertising..., dissemination of illegally intercepted communications..., and sexually explicit cable programming..., would smile in favor upon a law that cuts to the heart of what the First amendment is meant to protect: the right of citizens to criticize the government.... It forbids pre-election criticism of incumbents by corporations, even not-for-profit corporations, by use of their general funds, and forbids national-party use of "soft" money to fund "issue ads" that incumbents find so offensive."

Scalia opposed the BRCA so fundamentally that his colorful language coated the dissent with his frustration and rejection of democratic peers. Rehnquist stood along side, with Kennedy and Thomas, arguing that what the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "American Politics" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

American Politics.  (2005, April 18).  Retrieved February 16, 2020, from

MLA Format

"American Politics."  18 April 2005.  Web.  16 February 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"American Politics."  April 18, 2005.  Accessed February 16, 2020.