Campaign finance reform

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Campaign finance reform is the oft-debated idea that the role of money in national elections needs to be controlled. The crux of the issue is whether advertising can be restricted without unduly curtailing freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled in Buckley v Valeo that private and corporate spending to influence elections was constitutionally protected speech, even though some restrictions on contributions to candidates could be justified.

The most recent significant campaign finance legislation was the 2002 McCain-Feingold act, which has had mixed results in Supreme Court when its constitutionality has been challenged.

President Barack Obama paid lip service to campaign finance reform for his entire career prior to the 2008 election but then chose to forgo public funding and rely on his own network of donors and leverage his significant financial advantage against McCain.

As with many government regulations, rather than solve the problem campaign finance regulation has just conferred an advantage to those willing and able to exploit the rules.