Soft money is unregulated and unlimited money that corrupts the political process at the federal level.
Soft money goes to groups that support candidates, even though candidates do not control the group campaigning on their behalf. Hard money goes directly to candidates and is limited to $1,000 contributions per individual.
“Simply put, soft money is money which, by definition and law, is not supposed to be part of our federal campaign finance system,” according to Common Cause, a citizen watchdog group. “It is the corporate donations, the union contributions and the large–$100,000, $250,000 or even $1 million–contributions given by wealthy individuals to the political parties.”
“The myth of soft money is that it is contributed and spent for what is euphemistically called ‘party building’ purposes that are unrelated to influencing federal elections,” according to Common Cause.
When the Federal Election Commission issued an administrative ruling in 1978, the soft money loophole was created. The loophole was not exploited until 1988.
In the 1992 election, soft money contributions to the Republican and Democratic Parties totaled $86 million. Soft money contributions increased to $231.1 million in 1996 and $457.1 million in 2000.
“Republicans raised $239.2 million [in 2000], slightly outraising Democrats, who raised $218.3 million,” according to information on the Common Cause Web site.
For more information on soft money, go to the Common Cause Web site at http://www.commoncause.org