The Next Vice-President: Campaign Finance Reform

The next chapter is tracking six focus issues during the current presidential election process. TNC has summarized the positions of the presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Now that the candidates have selected their running mates, TNC is looking at the positions of Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence on these issues.

On Campaign Finance Reform:

Do you support campaign finance reform?

TNC’s Take: Congress should enact reforms to provide timely disclosure information so that voters can know and weigh the source of political campaign messages. Reforms should promote transparency, context, accuracy and accountability in political advertising.

Senator Tim Kaine supported the 2015 DISCLOSE Act (the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act) and was a cosponsor of the 2014 version of the legislation. The act would require disclosure of political spending by corporations and outside groups and disclosure of their major sources of funding.

In a press release, Kaine said: “The DISCLOSE Act would make long-overdue changes to our nation’s campaign laws by bringing needed transparency to political spending. Allowing special interest groups to conceal their donors encourages the onslaught of false, negative advertising that Virginians are sick of seeing during political campaigns. Congress needs to step up and make reforms that shine a light on secret money.”

Governor Mike Pence believes that campaign finance reform amounts to censorship. At the 2008 Conservative Political Action Conference, he said: “the future of conservatism demands that we oppose censorship, whether it takes the form of the so-called Fairness Doctrine or takes the form of Campaign Finance Reform. Our freedom to speak and listen to who we want when we want is a blood-bought American right. We must not permit the Democrats to bring back the so-called Fairness Doctrine.”

The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the Federal Communication Commission under which TV and radio stations licensed by the FCC were required to devote some of their programming to controversial issues of public importance and actively present opposing views. That is, programs on political topics had to include opposing opinions. The FCC repealed the fairness doctrine in 1987, finding that the policy interfered with the free speech rights of broadcasters. Broadcasters are still required to grant equal time to qualified candidates for public office.

When Pence ran for the House in 1990, it came to light that he had been using campaign donations for personal expenses, including his mortgage, personal credit card bill, groceries, golf tournament fees and car payments for his wife.   Such spending was not illegal at the time, but the disclosure led to Pence’s defeat in the election. Later, the FCC adopted rules barring the use of campaign funds for personal expenses.

In 2005, Representative Pence introduced the 527 Fairness Act. The bill would have repealed the aggregate limit that an individual may give to all candidates, PACs, and parties combined. It would have raised the individual limit on contributions to political action committees (from $5,000 to $7,500), and it would have raised the limit on contributions by PACs to political parties (from $15,000 to $25,000). The bill would have allowed political parties to make unlimited coordinated expenditures with their candidates. Among its other provisions, the bill also would have exempted internet communications from the definition of “public communications” (thus excluding internet communications from regulation). Although the bill died in committee, in 2014 the Supreme Court held in McCutcheon v. FEC that aggregate limits on the amount an individual may give to all candidates, parties and PACs violated First Amendment interests.


The vice-presidential candidates’ views on the other focus issues:

On Immigration

On Health Care

On Iran

On Climate Change

On the Minimum Wage

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