Perspectives from Business on Campaign Finance Reform
The Committee for Economic Development and the Conference Board Governance Center hosted a luncheon policy event featuring a new report from CED and a national business leader survey on the role of money in politics on Wednesday, July 24th. A photo album of the event, an overview of the report, and findings from the survey are below.
CED Poll Shows U.S. Business Executives Say Campaign Finance System Needs Major Reforms
Findings show strong support for more transparency in campaign finance
American business executives – from both political parties – have deep concerns about how U.S. elections are funded, according to CED’s latest survey. Business executives also overwhelmingly agree that the campaign finance system is “pay-to-play” and in need of major reforms.
“Results from our survey show that business leaders believe that the campaign finance system needs reform, and disclosure is the answer,” said Steve Odland, CEO of the Committee for Economic Development (CED). “CED continues to encourage robust discussion around these issues. CED urges members of the business and labor communities, civic leaders, and public officials to promote full participation by all parties in the campaign process, and bring increased transparency to campaign finance disclosure.”
Top-level findings show the level of frustration with large donors and hidden money in campaigns:
- 85% of business executives say the campaign finance is in poor shape or broken;
- 87% say that the campaign finance system needs major reforms or a complete overhaul;
- 64% of executives say that the U.S. campaign finance system is pay-to-play and it is a serious problem;
- 71% say that major contributors have too much influence on politicians.
The majority of those surveyed agreed that the solution to these problems is campaign finance disclosure:
- Nine out of ten business leaders surveyed support reforms that disclose all individual, corporate and labor contributions to political committees;
- 89% support limits on how much money individuals, corporations and labor organizations can give to political candidates and how much they can spend for political purposes during an election.
The results of the survey, along with a new CED report Hiding in Plain Sight: The Problem of Transparency in Political Finance, were released at a Washington, D.C. event hosted by CED and The Conference Board Governance Center. The event featured campaign finance expert and former Chairman of the Federal Elections Commission, Trevor Potter; Assistant General Counsel of the Altria Group, Inc., Wesley Bizzell; Vice President of Government Affairs at the Campbell Soup Company, Kelly Johnston; Chairman Emeritus of Kansas City Southern Industries and Chairman of Lead Bank, Landon Rowland; Partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP, Bobby Burchfield; and Deputy Government Editor of Bloomberg News, Jeanne Cummings. Mr. Bizzel and Mr. Johnston discussed voluntary disclosure policies adopted by Altria Group, Inc., and Campbell Soup Company.
CED’s new report finds that despite continuous judicial reaffirmation supporting disclosure, narrow interpretation by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is undermining enforcement. Political donors and spenders are finding it increasingly easy to avoid public scrutiny, as a growing number of organizations take advantage of porous rules to finance campaign activity without revealing the sources of their funding. The financial activity within the political process is thus becoming more opaque and the amount of undisclosed money flowing into federal elections is increasing. In the decades following the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), disclosure of political contributions was widely accepted – from both political parties – as necessary to fair elections. This consensus has been eroded as partisan groups attempted to keep their political spending secret.
During the 2012 elections, Super PACs, political committees, tax-exempt organizations and other non-party entities reported $1.04 billion in spending advocating for federal candidates. Of the $1 billion spent by these organizations, $311 million – over 30% – was spent by groups without disclosing donors to the FEC. Consequently, the American public will never know the origins of much of the money used to finance the electioneering activities and unprecedented advertising in the 2012 elections. This is not the way a democratic electoral system should work.
CED strongly believes that disclosure and transparency are essential to the proper functioning of a democracy, just as they are essential to the proper functioning of a free and competitive economy. CED agrees with Justice Roberts’ conclusion that disclosure promotes transparency and accountability to a greater extent than any other approach. In CED’s view, any group or organization that spends money to advocate candidates or finance election campaign activities should be required to disclose their expenditures and sources of funding to the public.
Read the full report by CED’s Money in Politics Project Director Anthony Corrado here.
About the Survey Methods for CED 2013 Campaign Finance Survey
The Committee for Economic Development (CED) engaged a bipartisan team of opinion research companies to help survey business leaders on issues of campaign finance and reform. Hart Research Associates, a Democratic polling firm, and American Viewpoint, a Republican polling firm, collaborated in conducting qualitative research, and in developing and fielding the survey.
The survey was fielded between May 29 and June 3, 2013 using the nation’s largest fielding service for on-line polls, Research Now. In all, 302 business owners and executives were surveyed including 102 with job titles including CEO, CFO, COO, Owner, Chairman, President, Partner or Senior Vice President, and the remainder holding titles of Vice President, Department Head, Administrator, or Director.
Online surveys are not sampled surveys so there is no statistical margin of sampling error for the survey, but a comparable sampled survey would have a sampling error of plus or minus 5.64%. It is standard practice to survey business executives using online surveys. Overall the sample was a reflection of the business community. Large, medium, and small businesses are each represented, with 39% of respondents in companies that employ at least 1000 people (including 23% in companies with 5000 employees or more), 43% in companies with 100 to 1000 employees, and 18% in companies with fewer than 100 employees (but greater than 5, the minimum number for inclusion in the survey). There are more men (64%) than women (36%) in the survey, and also more Republicans (43%) than Democrats (35%) – 20% of survey respondents described their political point of view as completely independent and an addition 2% choose another affiliation.