August 01, 1998 Policy

Campaign Finance System

98A113

American Bar Association

Standing Committee on Election Law
Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division

Adopted by the House of Delegates
August 1998

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges that any changes to the current campaign finance system must be framed in a constitutionally sound manner and the need for government regulation must be balanced against First  Amendment protections of political speech.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges that efforts must be taken to ensure there is full disclosure of money spent in federal elections; the perception of corruption is reduced; and voters are afforded a full opportunity to hear the views of candidates.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association supports the following principles regarding federal campaign finance legislation:

  1. Campaign finance laws and the implementation of those laws should not discourage the participation of individuals, political parties and organized political groups in all aspects of the electoral process.
  2. Campaign finance laws should be drafted and enforced in a manner that distinguishes between issue advocacy, which is protected by the First Amendment and should not be limited, and express advocacy which is also protected by the First Amendment but which the courts have held can be limited under certain circumstances. Issue advocacy should not serve as a mechanism for otherwise impermissible campaign contributions.
  3. Current individual campaign contribution limits, imposed in 1974, should be adjusted for inflation and indexed hereafter.
  4. Federal election activity should be conducted solely with money permitted to be raised and spent under federal law. Congress and the FEC should take further steps to ensure that money raised outside of federal law (i.e., “soft money”) is not used for federal election purposes.
  5. All contributions to and expenditures by state and federal party committees should be disclosed publicly and electronically. Congress should require that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) provide a central clearinghouse with respect to data concerning both contribution and expenditure reports.
  6. State legislatures should consider prohibiting or limiting the use of union and corporate general treasury funds for the election of candidates to office.
  7. Congress should examine ways to reduce the costs to candidates of federal election campaigns without imposing spending limits.

 

Report

Introduction

The Standing Committee on Election Law was created in 1973 with the purpose of developing and examining ways to improve the federal electoral process. In 1979, a ten-member non-voting Advisory Commission was created consisting of representatives of Congress, the President of the League of Women Voters, the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), election law attorneys, and academics. The Standing Committee also enjoys a liaison relationship with the Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, Section of Business Law, and the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division. Since its inception, the Standing Committee has remained active in the study and recommendation of all aspects of campaign finance. This report recommends that the Association adopt a set of principles that will ensure that federal campaign finance legislation is drafted in a manner that will promote and create a system of greater civic and candidate participation as well as public confidence through accountability and disclosure.

Historically this Association has been regarded as a leader in addressing campaign finance and electoral issues. At the 1975 Annual Meeting in Montreal, Canada, the Association adopted a set of guiding principles, sponsored by this Committee, relating to federal campaign finance. Specifically the guidelines relate to:

  1. disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures, 
  2. reasonable contribution limits, 
  3. no spending limits, 
  4. public funding for campaigns, and 
  5. an independent enforcement agency. 

The 1975 resolution was adopted prior to the landmark campaign finance Supreme Court ruling Buckley v. Valeo. The Standing Committee does not draft its policy resolutions in response to proposed legislation or pending cases, but addresses selected principles that it believes will best maintain or, if necessary, restore public confidence in the political process.

In the fall of 1996, the Standing Committee was asked by this Association to determine which, if any public policy issues of ten years or greater relating to election law should be archived. The 1975 federal campaign finance resolution was among those studied. The Standing Committee determined that the 1975 policy generally continues to be valid and has withstood the test of time. The current proposed recommendation is an effort to acknowledge the evolution of campaign finance over the course of the past twenty years and to ensure the continued integrity of the system. The proposed policy principles are not meant to repeal or to supersede the I975 policy principles concerning campaign financing or any other subsequently adopted policy positions. As an example, the Standing Committee has always and continues to maintain that disclosure is a vital and necessary component to maintaining the integrity of the campaign finance system. The current proposed policy recommendation is an effort to complement existing Association policy in the arena of campaign finance. The omission of particular issues does not signify tacit approval or support of such issues, unless the issues already form a part of Association policy. It is the understanding of the Standing Committee that consistency with existing policy is assumed by the Association unless a contrary position is expressed.

The Current State of Campaign Finance

In 1971, the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) was adopted by the Congress in an effort to require full disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures. In 1974, Congress amended the FECA by imposing contribution limits on individuals, political parties and political action committees (PAC's).

It is the consensus of the Standing Committee that the current process now encompasses two parallel systems of campaign finance, one that is extremely regulated by federal law, and the other which is largely unregulated by federal law or governed by state law, but may also involve federal election related activity. With regard to adequate enforcement, the Standing Committee has always expressed its support for an independent and adequately funded enforcement agency. This support is evidenced by current Association policy adopted in 1975, 1976, 1992, and 1995, that was sponsored by the Standing Committee on Election Law. In particular, the policy position adopted by the Association at the 1995 Midyear Meeting advocates that the FEC is a necessary part of any legislation affecting campaign finance and that disclosure should remain the highest priority.

The methods of financing and running campaigns have changed a great deal since the inception of the FECA and its subsequent amendments. While spending on federal campaigns has tripled in the last twenty years, contribution limits which were established in 1974 remain in place and not indexed for inflation. In the last federal election campaign cycle of 1996, $2.7 billion was spent and the parties collected more than $2S0 million dollars in soft money, three times more than in 1992. Questionable fundraising methods and the vast amounts of money being collected and spent on the campaign process has created a system that has caused the public to lose confidence with regard to those involved in the political process and the electoral process itself. The Standing Committee believes that campaign finance laws can and should be drafted to create a spirit of greater civic and candidate participation, accountability and disclosure.

Campaign Finance Reform and the First Amendment

A primary tenet of the First Amendment is to protect and encourage the rights of individuals and organizations to participate in the electoral process. This unfettered ability to be involved in the political system, openly and without fear of reprisal, is an important privilege that should not lie taken lightly. Past and present court decisions have continued to uphold the First Amendment as a safeguard for unconstrained dialogue and debate related to governmental affairs. Our fundamental rights of free speech and association in the political system are an integral part of this nation's democratic electoral system.

While the underlying concept of freedom of speech is frequently raised, very often the remaining corollary argument is forgotten; namely that the ability of the government to regulate privileges bestowed by the First Amendment is severely limited. The Supreme Court has consistently held that, “‘[w]hen a law burdens core political speech,’ the law should be upheld 'only if it narrowly tailored to serve an overriding state interest.‘ Clearly, in situations involving participation in the political process the role of the government, as the protector of the rights and privileges embodied in the Constitution, must be weighed to the appropriate standard against its role as a regulator of the political process. Any and all campaign finance reform must be clearly framed in this context.

The following serves as an explanation of each principle that the Standing Committee recommends as a means of preserving and enhancing the character and honor of our nation's electoral process in a constitutionally sound manner.

Equal Participation for All

Campaign finance laws and the implementation of those laws should not discourage the participation of individuals, political parties and organized political groups in all aspects of the electoral process.

Based upon its study and discussions regarding the current state of the electoral process, the Standing Committee believes that campaign finance laws and the implementation of such laws should encourage the participation of eligible individuals, political parties and organized groups in all aspects of the political process. In the drafting of legislation, the campaign finance laws should acknowledge the entire campaign finance system, which encompasses current case law, statutes, and FEC regulations and interpretations, among other things. As broadly defined by the Standing Committee, the term "political process" includes those who would seek elected office, join and be involved with political organizations, make monetary contributions, and advocate specific issues.

Campaign finance laws should be structured in a manner that encourages, rather than dissuades involvement in the political process. Prospective candidates should not be discouraged from entering into the political process due to fundraising disadvantages. Individuals and groups should not be discouraged from engaging in legislative promotion and issue advocacy. Political parties should be able to engage in legitimate party building activities and should involve their members in "get out the vote" activities. Political debate in this country is not just concerned with the electoral process, rather it is an important medium for individuals to voice their preferences and to cast their ballots for those who would seek political office and in support of particular issues. A fundamental purpose of the First Amendment is to guarantee political freedom, and thus no one should be discouraged from any form of participation in the electoral process.

Issue Advocacy

Campaign finance laws should be drafted and enforced in a manner that distinguishes between issue advocacy, which is protected by the First Amendment and should not be limited, and express advocacy, which is also protected by the First Amendment but which the courts have held can be limited under certain circumstances. Issue advocacy should not serve as a mechanism for otherwise impermissible campaign contributions.

The Standing Committee remains firm in its belief that issue advocacy is and should remain protected speech under the First Amendment. Legally, constitutionally, and as a matter of public policy, issue advocacy should not be limited. The Supreme Court has historically upheld issue advocacy as fully protected political speech under the First Amendment. Therefore, a clear distinction must be maintained between issue advocacy and speech which advocates the election or defeat of federal candidates. Simply put, the actions of individuals and groups who seek to foster the discussion and debate of public issues and opinions are not held to the same standards of regulation and disclosure as the actions of individuals and groups who have a direct and intimate link to the political process.

Individuals and organizations have the right to freely advocate certain public policy positions. Clear issue advocacy that is uncoordinated with candidates must be allowed as a matter of public policy and constitutional law. The limited scope of the authority of the FEC to regulate this area is clearly defined and must not be allowed to tread upon the First Amendment rights of political speech. Certainly, "issue discussions unwedded to the cause of a particular candidate hardly threaten the purity of elections. Moreover, and very importantly, such discussions are vital and indispensable to a free society and an informed electorate.'" The First'' Amendment guarantees a protected right to speak, publish and associate on behalf of political causes. The government must not attempt to interfere with these actions, absent a compelling state interest.

The adoption of this particular policy stance by the Association should not be seen through the eyes of its detractors. Protecting First Amendment rights to speech is fundamental to the political freedoms enjoyed by citizens of this country, and this Association is the natural champion for such rights. Amidst calls to limit issue advocacy, the proposed policy resolution attempts to respond to the current situation by reiterating First Amendment values.

Contribution Limits

Current individual campaign contribution limits, imposed in 1974, should be adjusted for inflation and indexed hereafter.

Current individual contribution limits were set in 1974. The following limits for contributions by individuals were established at that time as a means of controlling spending and providing for full disclosure:

  • $1,000 per candidate, per election
  • $5,000 to PAC's, per year
  • $20,000 to national party committees, per year
  • $25,000 total to federal political committees, per calendar year

These limits have not been adjusted subsequently for inflation or increases in the size of the electorate. The obvious result has been to force candidates to spend increasing amounts of time raising contributions in modest amounts from an ever expanding group of contributors.

The system has changed a great deal in the last two decades. Spending has risen rapidly with each passing election cycle and the concept of full disclosure has been skirted by the advent of soft money. The FECA has had the unintended consequence of limiting the supply of campaign funding while the demand for campaign resources has risen dramatically.

In 1994, $724 million was spent on Congressional races, a figure which represents a 1,000% increase over 1974, not including inflation. In the last federal election cycle of 1996, which includes presidential spending, the record $2.7 billion that was spent represents an increase of approximately $650 million more than was spent in 1992.

The Standing Committee firmly believes that current contribution limits, imposed in 1974, should be adjusted for inflation and indexed hereafter. As an example, if contribution limits were indexed to inflation, the current individual contribution limit per candidate would be approximately $3,300.00, an amount that is more than triple the current contribution limit. The Supreme Court, in Buckley, upheld restrictions on the size of contribution limits as a necessary measure to prevent the appearance of corruption. The average costs of paper, postage, and television advertising have risen at a rate that is even higher than inflation. Given the fact that campaign costs have increased dramatically, it is reasonable to conclude that raising contribution limits to a level indexed for inflation, which is an extremely objective measure, would not confer a sense of corruption upon the process. The Committee believes that indexing individual contribution limits to inflation is a realistic acknowledgment of the current state of raising campaign funds. This is not inconsistent with the Supreme Court's position in Buckley. Raising contribution limits in line with an inflation index would not taint the contribution process.

Having established that raising contribution limits, in a manner that is indexed to the inflation rate, would be constitutionally sound and not provide a sense of undue influence and corruption in the system, there are also more practical aspects which must be considered. Certainly once contribution limits are able to be more accurately matched with the rising costs of campaigns the most immediate effect will be to lessen the amount of time candidates must spend raising funds. This would allow all candidates, both challengers and incumbents alike, to spend more time debating the issues and concerns of their constituencies.

Increasing the threshold contribution limits would also have the important effect of preserving the spirit of the FECA. Currently, large amounts of soft money are being channeled in and out of the system with little regard to current contribution limits and disclosure. Raising contribution limits is a viable method of channeling money that is currently being contributed outside of the federal system, namely "soft money," back into the system. Funds within the federal system are subject to disclosure and thus accountable to the FECA and the public at large.

The Standing Committee also views an increase in existing contribution limits to be an integral step in assisting less wealthy challengers who are operating in an increasingly pro­ incumbent campaign finance system. To a certain extent the current system has had the effect of dampening the spirit of electoral competition. In the face of ever increasing campaign costs, incumbents are better positioned to retain their seats. In 1994, the re-election rate for Congressional seats was 90%. That figure rose to 94.7% in the most recent election cycle of 1996. The mere fact of incumbency, being a known quantity, possessing a Congressional "franking" privilege, record, staff and having a pre-existing fundraising mechanism in place gives the incumbent a clear advantage over a prospective challenger. With respect to fundraising, in the last Congressional election cycle of19% PAC's gave $133 million to incumbents, $28.3 million to challengers, and $39.8 million to open-seat candidates. Approximately $765.3 million was spent in the 1996 Congressional cycle, representing a 5% increase from the record breaking 1994 election cycle, and a 12% increase over the preceding presidential election cycle of 1992. Barring individual wealth, challengers who are unknown to the public at large do not have a realistic opportunity of collecting the funds necessary to participate effectively in today's campaign process, raising contribution limits will greatly assist challengers in their quest for elected office.

There are some that believe that raising contribution limits lessens the ability of those that would make less than the maximum contribution to be heard in the political process. The, Standing Committee does not believe this to be the situation. The Committee remains firm in its belief that such a measure would have the ultimate effect of opening up the political process to greater participation for all who are interested. Raising the current contribution limits will create a more level playing field for all involved in the electoral process by enabling challengers to have the greatest and fairest opportunity to raise the necessary funds for their candidacies. Another positive aspect is that candidates will have a greater amount of time to devote to a more informed and involved debate and discussion of issues with interested individuals and organizations.
Certainly this would heighten the ability of individuals to be involved in the more substantive aspects of the electoral process, which is presumably also the desired effect of making individual contributions to candidates. Another equally important aspect of raising contribution limits would be that it opens an important avenue to bring funds back into the federally regulated system of "hard money." Money raised within the rubric of the scheme of federal contribution limits is clearly disclosed and accountable to the general public. Thus, raising contribution limits will not only have the effect of opening up the political process in terms of participation by candidates, it will also have the paramount consequence of improving the substantive debate of issues and providing greater insight into the flow of money into the campaign process.

Soft Money

Federal election activity should be conducted solely with money permitted to be raised and spent under federal law. Congress and the FEC should take further steps to ensure that money raised outside of federal law (i.e., "soft money") is not used for federal election purposes.
All contributions to and expenditures by state and federal party committees should be disclosed publicly and electronically. Congress should require that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) provide a central clearinghouse with respect to data concerning both contribution and expenditure reports.

Soft money has become a great issue of debate within the campaign finance arena. Soft money is defined as any funds that have been raised or spent outside of the limitations and prohibitions of the FECA. Under current law, soft money is not illegal per se; the term refers to money raised by the national and local committees of political parties for issue advocacy and non-federal election purposes. It has been used, however, as a method by which contribution limits and prohibitions have been successfully circumvented. Funds which are not deemed to be connected to federal elections are not within the purview of the FECA, and thus money which is donated to the state or "non-federal" accounts of state party committees is not considered part of the federal system.

At the 1998 ABA Midyear Meeting a resolution, which proposed to ban soft money, was sponsored by Robert L. Weinberg, a member of the House of Delegates. The policy resolution was brought before the House and was subsequently referred to the Standing Committee on Election Law. Prior to the referral of Mr. Weinberg's proposal, the Standing Committee had already begun its discussion and study of soft money in an effort to develop a policy which would be consistent with constitutional restrictions on the ability of the federal government to impose restrictions on state activities.

This policy resolution reflects the Standing Committee's commitment to the principle that federal election activity should be conducted only with money that has been raised and spent under federal law. As defined by the Standing Committee and by law, federal election activity would encompass, "the process by which individuals, whether opposed or unopposed, seek nomination for election, or election, to Federal office. The courts and the FEC have also defined federal election activity as encompassing any communication that expressly advocates the election or defeat of clearly identified candidates. The Committee supports the current law, as outlined in the FECA and as defined by the Supreme Court, and encourages Congress and the FEC to take efforts to ensure that federal election activities are exclusively funded by federally regulated funds.

Under current law, non-federal activities such as grassroots efforts) voter registration drives, "'get out the vote" activities, candidate trainings, basic administrative co and any other legitimate party building activities that promote specific parties and issues may be funded by "soft money." These activities are important to the general well-being of parties and their abilities to involve people in the political process. Political parties are an integral part of the electoral process. It is a natural component of the electoral process that political parties should be allowed to take part in activities that seek to build the membership and increase the scope of involvement in the political process. Funds for these activities are kept in the non-federal accounts of party committees and are thus not limited or prohibited under the FECA. The Standing Committee also notes that the language of its policy recommendation does not intend to preclude the use of money transferred from a party committee's non-federal accounts to its federal account pursuant to administrative or "get out the vote" allocation formulas, as defined by current FEC regulations.

While the Standing Committee is not able to support a prohibition of soft money, in light of its legitimate uses in the political process, a determination was made that the issue of soft money should be addressed to the fullest extent possible under the Constitution.

Absent the ability of the federal government to impose restrictions on state entities, the Standing Committee recommends that disclosure at the federal level with a link between federal and state entities will provide the general public with a centralized point of information flow. · Questions have been raised as to the extent to which soft money is actually being used in the federal campaign process as a means of circumventing the FECA. At the present time, answers to these questions are not readily available. The Standing Committee's proposed policy recommendation will aid in the information gathering process by giving the public the ability to see the flow of money from both sides and to thereby make informed judgments. Advocating this combination of federal and state disclosure systems would have the optimal effect of creating a viable link between the two systems. And it would also provide a valid base of assessment as to whether or not soft money is currently being used in the federal campaign process and whether or not its prohibition is a feasible and constitutionally supportable action.

Union and Corporate General Treasury Funds

State legislatures should consider prohibiting or limiting the use of union and corporate general treasury funds for the elections of candidates to office.

Under current federal law, labor organizations and business corporations are prohibited from making any contributions or expenditures from their respective general treasury funds in connection with federal elections. This prohibition of direct corporate involvement was begun in 1907 and labor organizations were similarly banned from the process in 1943. Under the federal system, the use of general treasury funds of business corporations and labor unions may only be used for non-federal election activities that are geared toward certain restricted classes of the organization. Administrative costs associated with establishing and operating the organization's political action committee (PAC) and non-partisan "get out the vote" and voter registration drives are authorized under the FECA, so long as the activities involve only members of the organization, officials, stockholders and family members. In other words, the permitted non-federal activities must not involve the general public.

A permissible way for business corporations and labor organizations to be involved in the federal election process is through the formation of a separate segregated fund (SSF), which is an account that must be held entirely apart from the corporate or labor organization general treasury account and that may only raise voluntary contributions from a restricted class of individuals. The SSF is also more commonly known as a PAC. In accordance with FEC regulations, PAC's of corporations or labor unions are entitled to make contributions and expenditures on behalf of federal candidates and party committees. Some might ask if corporate and labor union general treasury funds are not allowed to be used in the process why should PAC's of the same prohibited entities be allowed to participate in the electoral system. The rationale is analogous to the argument that underlies the imposition of individual contribution limits. PAC's, which use funds voluntarily donated by individuals, are held to annual contribution limits, which are clearly regulable under the FECA and fully disclosed, and thus there exists a viable means of limiting corruption or undue influence by the PAC and its sponsoring entity in the electoral process.

The FEC does not have the authority to affect the involvement of business corporations and labor organizations in state and local elections. Currently, 30 states allow the use of corporate general treasury funds and 39 states allow the use of labor organization general treasury funds to state and local candidates and parties - the level of involvement varies with each state, some allow unlimited contributions while others impose limits.

The Standing Committee's proposal that states should consider prohibiting the use of corporate and labor union general treasury funds for the election of candidates would bring state laws in line with present federal rules. The ultimate effect of this recommendation would be to ensure that no corporate and labor union general treasury fund contributions at the state level are able to affect elections at the federal level. Currently, for example, it is permissible for national party committees to exchange soft money, all funds received for non-federal election activity, with state party committees for hard money, all funds received and earmarked for federal races by the state party committee. An extension of the prohibition of corporation and labor organization general treasury funds to the elections of candidates to state and local offices would curtail the ability of the national party committees to use soft money. The effect of the proposed policy resolution would diminish the amount of "soft money" that the national party committee would be able to exchange for state party committee hard money, due to the fact that soft money would be characterized in a much more narrow manner.

The Standing Committee makes clear that a consideration of the prohibition of corporate and labor union funds in the election of state and local candidates to office does not in any manner affect current laws and practices related to issue advocacy. Issue advocacy, which has been previously discussed in greater detail, consists primarily of independent communications that do not advocate the election or defeat of any candidate to office and as such remains protected under the First Amendment from regulation, by the federal and state governments. The courts have continued to uphold the rights of corporations and labor organizations to engage in issue advocacy and in ballot initiative campaigns along with the underlying understanding that such actions are not regulated by the FECA.

The Standing Committee believes that the rationale for prohibiting corporate and labor - union general treasury funds in state and local elections is congruent with longstanding methods of minimizing the perception of undue influence in the electoral process. Not withstanding such sentiment, it is clear that any actions that prohibit corporate and labor union spending on issue advocacy are clearly violative of First Amendment protections of expressions of political speech. The courts have continued to express a, "fundamental constitutional difference between money spent to advertise one's views independently of the candidate's campaign and money contributed to the candidate to be spent on his campaign." and the Standing Committee does not intend to diverge from these holdings.

Reducing the Costs of Federal Election Campaigns

Congress should examine ways to reduce the costs to candidates of federal election campaigns without imposing spending limits.

The Standing Committee recommends that the Congress explore ways to establish a floor, but not a ceiling, for expenditures by candidates required in federal election campaigns. Limits on campaign expenditures by candidates are prohibited by the First Amendment. It is generally conceded, however, that campaigns today are so expensive that they favor candidates who are either independently wealthy, or have access to substantial financial resources. What is needed, however, are ways to make it possible for candidates to mount an effective campaign without the need to raise vast sums of money. This would create a floor below which no qualified candidate need drop, without imposing an unconstitutional ceiling on expenditures by candidates or third parties on a campaign.

For example, with respect to public financing, current ABA policy supports partial public financing of congressional and presidential elections as a desirable means of providing a floor for campaign funds and for promoting and ensuring an effective and competitive electoral process and minimizing the importance of wealth and the need for contributions. Those who argue against public financing note, however, that it would merely shift the costs of campaigns from the individual candidate and his or her contributors to federal taxpayers. The government might also impose conditions on the types of expenditures that could be made from these funds.

With respect to free broadcast time, the Standing Committee notes that by law, candidates are already charged by broadcasters the lowest fee applicable to the time slot and length of commercial they wish to broadcast. If broadcasters were obligated to broadcast candidate communications for no fee, they could argue that their property interest was being taken by the government without compensation. They might also argue that they should not be singled out to subsidize the election process. One alternative is that the federal government could end up purchasing the air time used by candidates in their election campaigns, perhaps through a system of vouchers given to candidates.

Similarly, if the United States Postal Service is required to give candidates a special rate, it would reduce the revenues earned by the Postal Service and could lead to greater federal subsidies of that agency. On the other hand, political parties and nonprofit corporations already receive special reduced postage rates.

Therefore, while the Standing Committee believes there is no non-controversial way to make election campaigns less expensive to candidates, it urges Congress to carefully consider this issue in the context of any campaign finance reform legislation. In 1974 the Congress did embark on a comprehensive review of the costs associated with federal election activity. One result of this effort was the 1974 amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. Of course, the provision in the 1974 amendments to impose campaign expenditures limits was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. It is now time for Congress to undertake another comprehensive review of the costs associated with election campaigns, to determine if such costs can be reduced, in a manner consistent with our Constitution.

Conclusion

The Standing Committee and its non-voting Advisory Commission are nationally recognized election law experts who have the unique perspective which flows from a day to day working relationship with the FECA and the FEC. The Standing Committee is charged with representing the Association's commitment to ensure that the nation's election laws are legally sound and are drafted to permit the broadest, least restrictive access by Americans to the ballot box and all aspects of the political process. Members are appointed based not only upon their individual practical experience in the field, but through a balancing of party affiliations as well. This balanced selection process ensures a spirit of non-partisan participation and consensus. The composition of the Committee provides a delicate symmetry of opinions and ideas that are indicative of the Association's and the Standing Committee's ability to provide the most balanced and respected policy resolutions concerning the political process.

In conclusion, the current proposed campaign finance policy, addressing carefully selected issues, is not meant as a substitute for existing Association policy and under ABA tradition is not taken as such. Rather, the proposed recommendations represent an effort to acknowledge the changes in campaign financing over the years and to reflect the Committee's most reasoned and balanced measures to restore public confidence and integrity to the funding of the political process. The Standing Committee does not concern itself with individual or specialized campaign finance reform movements, but approaches issues with an eye toward the role of the Association in the field. As such its policy recommendations are meant to convey fair and evenhanded solutions that are constitutionally sound and indicative of good public policy. The recommended principles represent the most current and pragmatic measures that will ensure that campaign finance laws and pending legislation are drafted in a manner that will increase responsible citizen participation and restored public confidence in the electoral process.

Respectfully submitted,


Pauline A. Schneider, Chair
August 1998