12th Grade Government New York

Campaign Finance

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of campaign finance by examining election costs, expenditures, and the complex relationships between candidates and political-action committees. By investigating the compelling question “Does money matter in political campaigns?” students dissect contemporary political campaigns in order to assess whether or not campaign-finance reform should take place. In investigating contemporary evidence on campaigns and campaign finance, students develop an understanding of who is funding political campaigns and evaluate the extent to which campaign funding is problematic.


Compelling Question:

Does Money Matter in Political Campaigns?

Staging the Question:

Analyze correspondence between political parties and corporations/CEOs to determine if funding is tied to political favors.

Supporting Question How much does it cost to become a member of Congress?

Formative Task List how much money members of Congress spent on their last campaigns.

Sources Source A: Current members of the 114th Congress, 2015
Source B: Interactive campaign-finance map


Supporting Question Where do politicians get their campaign contributions?

Formative Task Write 1–2 paragraphs explaining the ways that individuals and companies can donate to political candidates.

Sources Source A: Interactive guide to political donations
Source B: Interactive congressional races
Source C: Video clip from The Colbert Report


Supporting Question How do super PACs play a role in political campaigns?

Formative Task Create a graphic organizer that defines super PACs and explains their role in political campaigns.

Sources Source A: “Civics in a Minute”: What is a Super PAC?
Source B: Supreme Court Ruling Campaign Finance
Source C: “Super PAC Mania”


Supporting Question Should the government limit contributions to political campaigns?

Formative Task Write a claim with evidence that answers the supporting question.

Sources Source A: “ The Cost of Campaigns”
Source B: Colbert Super PAC—Trevor Potter
Source C: Collection of essays on campaign finance

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Does money matter in political campaigns? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, essay) that addresses the compelling question using specific claims and relevant evidence from contemporary sources while acknowledging competing perspectives.
Extension: Create a public service announcement that addresses students’ stances on campaign-finance reform.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Research five current political campaign ads, noting who is funding each ad and whether the ad is in support of a candidate or against the candidate’s opponent.
Assess: Determine the extent to which candidates (once elected) vote in favor of those who have funded them.
Act: Using assorted media platforms, create a presentation that conveys students’ views about campaign-finance reform.