Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974
with historical background

The FEC and the Federal Campaign Finance Law

As early as 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt recognized the need for campaign finance reform and called for legislation to ban corporate contributions for political purposes. In response, Congress enacted several statutes between 1907 and 1966 which, taken together, sought to:

In 1971, Congress consolidated its earlier reform efforts in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), instituting more stringent disclosure requirements for federal candidates, political parties and political action committees (PACs). Still, without a central administrative authority, the campaign finance laws were difficult to enforce.

Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974

Following reports of serious financial abuses in the 1972 Presidential campaign, Congress amended the FECA in 1974 to set limits on contributions by individuals, political parties and PACs. The 1974 amendments also established an independent agency: the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to enforce the law, facilitate disclosure and administer the public funding program. Congress made further amendments to the FECA in 1976 following a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo ; major amendments were also made in 1979 to streamline the disclosure process and expand the role of political parties.

Public funding of federal elections originally proposed by President Roosevelt in 1907 began to take shape in 1971 when Congress set up the income tax checkoff to provide for the financing of Presidential general election campaigns and national party conventions. Amendments to the Internal Revenue Code in 1974 established the matching fund program for Presidential primary campaigns.

The FEC opened its doors in 1975 and administered the first publicly funded Presidential election in 1976.


The FEC has six voting members who serve staggered six-year terms. The Commissioners are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. No more than three Commissioners may belong to the same political party. The Commissioners elect two members each year to act as Chairman and Vice Chairman.

Public Meetings

The Commission normally holds a public meeting each week. At this meeting, the Commissioners adopt new regulations, issue advisory opinions, approve audit reports concerning Presidential campaign committees, and take other actions to administer the campaign finance law. In addition, the Commissioners meet regularly in closed sessions to discuss pending enforcement actions, litigation and personnel matters.

Source: Federal Election Commission, http://www.fec.gov, 1998.