Home » Soft and Hard Money in Contemporary Elections: What Federal Law Does and Does Not Regulate by Joseph E. Cantor Congressional Research Service
Soft and Hard Money in Contemporary Elections: What Federal Law Does and Does Not Regulate Joseph E. Cantor Congressional Research Service

Soft and Hard Money in Contemporary Elections: What Federal Law Does and Does Not Regulate

Joseph E. Cantor Congressional Research Service

Published January 2nd 2010
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Kindle Edition
9 pages
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Soft and Hard Money in Contemporary Elections: What Federal Law Does and Does Not RegulateCongressional Research Service Report for Congress...Financial activity in federal elections is governed by federal statutes, which haveevolved under theMoreSoft and Hard Money in Contemporary Elections: What Federal Law Does and Does Not RegulateCongressional Research Service Report for Congress...Financial activity in federal elections is governed by federal statutes, which haveevolved under the influence of various court rulings. The Federal Election Campaign Act(FECA) of 1971, as amended, imposes limitations and prohibitions on money fromcertain sources and requires public disclosure of money raised and spent in federalelections. Based on the Supreme Court’s 1976 Buckley v. Valeo ruling, federal lawgenerally does not impose mandatory limits on campaign spending by candidates orgroups.1 While federal law regulates some types and sources of campaign money, othertypes and sources are exempt from coverage. Also, there are wide differences in whatfederal law allows in federal elections and what 50 state statutes allow in state elections.Money that is outside the federal regulatory framework, but raised and spent in a mannersuggesting possible intent to affect federal elections, is known as soft money. Theomissions from federal regulation and disparities between federal and state laws havecreated confusion about current practices. This report examines the major types offinancial activity in elections and what are often labeled as loopholes in federal law.In the 107th Congress, both the House-passed Shays-Meehan (H.R. 2356) and theSenate-passed McCain-Feingold (S. 27) bills would ban the raising of soft money bynational parties and federal candidates or officials, and would restrict soft moneyspending by state parties on what the bills define as federal election activities. Both billswould also regulate certain communications now considered to be “issue advocacy” andthus outside the purview of federal election law, designating them instead as“electioneering communications,” subject to disclosure requirements and, for specifiedentities, a prohibition on their financing with treasury funds.....Congressional Research ServiceThe Congressional Research Service (CRS) serves shared staff to congressional committees and Members of Congress. CRS experts assist at every stage of the legislative process — from the early considerations that precede bill drafting, through committee hearings and floor debate, to the oversight of enacted laws and various agency activities.CRSs analytic capabilities integrate multiple disciplines and research methodologies. In a fast-paced, ever-changing environment, CRS provides Congress with the vital, analytical support it needs to address the most complex public policy issues facing the nation. Its work incorporates program and legislative expertise, quantitative methodologies, and legal and economic analysis.