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Campaign Finance Reform

Read today's statements from
Curtis Gans

Sen. John McCain

Susan Tolchin

Day One Academic Analysis and Discussion Questions

By Melvin Dubnick
Academic Editor
PoliticsNow Classroom, March 27, 1997

In her opening statement, Susan Tolchin focuses on the anger and disgust that sustains the drive for campaign finance reform. Unless those emotions are addressed by some significant actions to change the system, policy makers risk adding to the general deterioration of public trust that plagues the nation's political atmosphere.

Curtis Gans considers the implications of the various proposals for reform. He argues that each major proposal would threaten and radically alter the political dynamics of our system -- all in the name of political purity.

In his opening statement, Senator McCain lays out the fundamental argument for campaign finance reform: to do nothing is to feed the growing cynicism and distrust the permeates today's politics. What he calls for are changes that set "reasonable" limits on contributions and establishes a more level playing field between incumbents and opponents. "If we choose to do nothing," he concludes, "we invite increased cynicism of our elected government."

Discussion Questions

1. Both Senator McCain and Professor Tolchin argue that the mood of the country -- the anger and cynicism -- is reason enough to do something about the present campaign financing system. Are public moods sufficient grounds for making the kinds of changes being called for? Do they offer more substantive reason for altering the current process?

2. Curtis Gans believes the political cost of proposed campaign finance reform is too high. Given the public's view of government and politics today, is Mr. Gans justified in call to protect the current system? What is it about the various reform proposals that might disrupt our policy making capabilities as a nation?