Simulated Complexity: A New Classroom Simulation to teach about Campaign-Finance Laws
by Dick M. Carpenter II, University 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.