The 1976 decision of the United States Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo marked a major shift in campaign finance laws, overturning several limits on Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) spending as unconstitutional violations of freedom of expression. This ruling eliminated limits on candidate spending unless the candidate accepted public funding, and the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) was established as the independent regulatory agency responsible for administering and enforcing federal campaign finance law. The FEC has jurisdiction over the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Presidency and the Vice Presidency of the United States. Eight years ago, the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v.
FEC further defined the modern federal campaign finance system. In 1971, Congress consolidated its previous reform efforts into the Federal Election Campaigns Act, instituting stricter disclosure requirements for federal candidates, political parties, and political action committees (PACs). This was a major step forward in regulating campaign finance and ensuring transparency. Since then, there have been several other changes to campaign finance laws. In 2002, Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), which prohibited national political parties from raising or spending soft money. Soft money refers to funds that are not subject to federal regulation or contribution limits. In 2010, the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v.
FEC allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on independent political expenditures. This ruling has had a significant impact on campaign finance laws and has been widely criticized by those who believe it gives too much power to wealthy individuals and corporations. In 2014, Congress passed the McCutcheon v. FEC ruling, which eliminated aggregate contribution limits for individuals. This ruling allowed individuals to contribute up to $2,600 per election cycle to any number of candidates or committees. The most recent change to campaign finance laws came in 2018 with the passage of the Honest Ads Act.
This act requires online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to disclose information about political ads purchased on their platforms. Campaign finance laws have come a long way since 1971, but there is still much work to be done to ensure that our elections are fair and transparent. It is important for citizens to stay informed about these changes so that they can make informed decisions when it comes time to vote.