Campaign Finance

Lesson Plans

Evaluate how effectively current campaign finance practices reflect the collective vision of democratic republicanism.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Examine and evaluate historical and current rules for campaign funding and finance.
  • Identify and assess changes over time to campaign finance, including the impact of key legislation and Supreme Court decisions.
  • Develop arguments for and against campaign finance reform.
  • Articulate alternatives to the current campaign funding model.
  • Participate in a small group “Think Tank” to discuss ideas and reach a collective recommendation concerning current campaign finance practices.

Common Core Standard for Literacy in History and Social Studies this Lesson Addresses:

  • Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
  • Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.


Part One:

  • Students read and view the information provided in the Campaign Finance portion of the website and use the “Campaign Finance” graphic organizer to identify key legislation and Supreme Court decisions impacting the campaign finance process, arguments for and against campaign finance reform and current campaign finance practices.

Part Two:

  • Teacher asks students to respond to the statement “The current campaign finance structure works for the country” with a 1: strongly agree, 2: agree, 3: disagree; 4: strongly disagree.  Designate four corners of the room as 1, 2, 3, and 4 and ask students to go to the corner which best represents their opinion.
  • Teacher puts students in like-sized groups of 3-5 based on their response.  Depending on how students respond to the question, it may be necessary to move students around to keep groups even.
  • Teacher explains to students that they will be participating in Vision for Campaign Finance Think Tank and each group is charged with evaluating current campaign finance methods and affirming the current structure or suggesting alternatives.  Students should use their Campaign Finance graphic organizer to participate in the Think Tank and gather evidence to support their ideas.
  • Present the following questions for each Think Tank to explore in a small group discussion informed by evidence from graphic organizer:
    • How does campaign finance currently function?
    • What is role of ordinary citizens and special interest groups in campaign finance?
    • What is the impact of current campaign funding on candidates?
    • Is the current campaign financing structure democratic?
      • If yes, why? Articulate at least two reasons why the current system works.
      • If no, how should the system change? Suggest at least two changes.
  • Once students have considered all questions and articulated and recorded a response to the last question, teacher will bring the class back together.
  • Teacher asks each group to present their findings to the “Board”.  Teacher will designate a student to record each Think Tank’s response.
  • After all findings have been recorded, allow students to respond to other groups’ ideas with the goal of arriving at a whole class “Vision for Campaign Finance” with the majority deciding on what should be included in that vision.



  • Graphic organizer
  • Short writing exercise: After completing the activity teacher will ask students to re-consider the question from the start of the Think Tank Activity “The current campaign finance structure works for the country” and consider how their perspective has or has not changed as an in-class or at-home writing assignment.

Common Core standards:
English Language Arts Standards » History/Social Studies » Grades 11-12
English Language Arts Standards » History/Social Studies » Grades 9-10