Simulated Complexity

Simulated Complexity: A New Classroom Simulation to teach about Campaign-Finance Laws

by Dick M. Carpenter IIUniversity of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and Joshua M. Dunn, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

Classroom simulations have become an increasing­­ly popular instructional method in political science to increase student engagement, interest, and learning. This article describes a simulation designed to teach students about the complexities of campaign-finance systems, particularly disclosure requirements. In the simulation, students work in groups to convince others how to vote on a pending ballot measure. After spending more than $200 on materials, groups then must register as ballot-issue committees and comply with state campaign-finance laws, including tracking contributions and expenditures and completing all required forms. The simulation ends with a debrief. Results from several years of debriefs are presented to discuss how students perceive the complexities of campaign-finance laws. Dominant themes include surprise by students in the complexities of these laws and the effects they have on political speech and association.

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PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 51 / Issue 2 / April 2018