The Tillman Act of 1907 was legislation passed during the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. This Act placed a ban on the corporations from contributing any money to the election campaigns of political candidates. Before this act, the corporations openly contributed money during the political elections, raising questions about transparency.
Theodore Roosevelt won the Presidential elections of 1904. After he won, many people said that he had accepted money from different corporations during the Presidential elections. Although accepting such money at the time wasn’t illegal, the critics simply said that since Roosevelt had more money on his side, he was able to win the elections.
President Roosevelt responded when he started the Presidential term in 1905. He said that in order to put a permanent end to this, he was in favour of banning the corporations from making any contributions to the political elections. He first said this in his 1905 annual address to the Congress. He later repeated the same stance in 1906. His suggestions ultimately led to the Tillman Act of 1907.
The Act was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Benjamin Tillman. This is why it came to be called the Tillman Act.
The Act was passed by the U.S. Senate on June 9, 1906. It was by President Roosevelt and made a law on January 26, 1907.
The Act explicitly forbade any corporations from contributing money towards any political elections. The Act was limited in that it was related only to the general elections and not to the primary elections. As per the Act, any corporations who now made contributions for the general elections would be subject to legal action.
The Act specified that any corporation that made such a contribution would be fined up to $5000. Also, each director or officer of such a corporation would also be fined up to $1000 as per the Act. The Act further stated that the directors or officers of such a corporation may also be sentenced to 1 year in prison if found guilty of violating this law.
Well, it was the first time the American government tried to regular campaign financing by corporations. So this was a start. Also, there were many loopholes in the law, so any corporation or its directors could easily contribute money to the elections without directly violating the law. At the same time, the political candidates who received such money were not required to disclose this as per the Act. So the laws provided by the Act were incomplete.
The Act did help the financial corporations in some way as well. According to Senator Tillman, many corporations were blackmailed by the political candidates and were forced to pay up huge amounts of money for political campaigns. Through this Act, such blackmailing was effectively put to an end and the candidates could no longer force the corporations to sponsor their campaigns.