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CNN Student News Learning Activity: Campaign Finance

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(CNN Student News) -- Students will learn about campaign finance and campaign finance reform.


Inform students that in 12 of the past 16 presidential contests in both parties, the candidate who raised the most money by the start of the election year went on to win the nomination. Generate a class discussion about the expenses that are associated with a political campaign. Ask students: What might be some sources of campaign contributions? Why do you think that individuals, businesses and organizations might want to contribute to a political campaign? Do you think that campaign contributions should be disclosed to the public? Why or why not?

Next, refer groups of students to online resources to learn about campaign finance reforms. Use the following questions to guide students' research:

  • Are there individual and/or group limits on federal campaign contributions? If so, what are these limits?
  • What is a political action committee (PAC)?
  • Why do you think that PACs and political campaigns are required to disclose the sources of their contributions?
  • What is the difference between "soft money" and "hard money"?
  • Are there any individuals or groups that are prohibited from making political contributions? Why do you think this is so?
  • What is meant by the phrase "campaign finance reform"? What arguments exist for and against this issue?
  • Reconvene the class and share groups' findings. Ask: Why do you think that there are federal laws governing campaign contributions? Do you think these laws are justified? Allow students to formulate their own opinions on campaign finance reform and create video or written editorials in response to the following question: Do federal regulations on campaign contributions violate free speech, or do these rules support the democratic process?


    Challenge your students to use original video, music, animation and other production elements to create their own "Talking Democracy" iReports that explain or demonstrate the concept of campaign finance. The videos should be three minutes or less in length and can be submitted here. The best videos may appear on CNN Student News!

    Correlated Standards


    9-12 Content Standards

    I. What Are Civic Life, Politics, And Government?

    1. Defining civic life, politics, and government

    2. Necessity of politics and government

    III. How Does The Government Established By The Constitution Embody The Purposes, Values, And Principles Of American Democracy?

    14. Political parties, campaigns, and elections

    V. What Are The Roles Of The Citizen In American Democracy?

    14. The relationship between politics and the attainment of individual and public goals

    15. The difference between political and social participation

    16. Forms of political participation

    17. Political leadership and careers in public service

    18. Knowledge and participation

    The National Standards for Civics and Government ( are published by the Center for Civic Education (

    campaign finance, campaign finance reform, Federal Election Commission (FEC), disclosure, soft money, hard money, political action committee (PAC), Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), free speech E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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