CT-N Civics Toolbox Logo (small) CT-N Toolbox: Campaign Finance
"Mock Press Conference"

Developed by:
Raisa Bublick, Tami Devine and Laurel A. Richie,
Rocky Hill H.S.

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Content: This simulation of a press conference in which different groups present their position on campaign finance and respond to questions offers students the opportunity to examine opposing viewpoints, analyze material, and develop solutions to a complicated issue.

Materials Needed:

  • Background reading on campaign finance - text and Internet
  • Selected articles presenting varied approaches to and attitudes toward campaign finance
  • Chart paper and markers
  • Podium, chairs, microphone, etc. for press conference

Class Time: Five to six class periods; may be expanded or contracted to suit individual classroom needs.

Objectives: Students will: analyze material, evaluate differing viewpoints, draw conclusions, present information in both oral and written form, and demonstrate an overall understanding of the complexities of campaign finance.


  • Before initiating activity, assign reading in text or independent research related to campaign finance to be completed by Day 1.
  • Day 1:
    1. Divide class into the following five groups: Democrats, Republicans, Third Party members, Journalists, and the Committee for Reform.
    2. Explain that each group, except for the Journalists, represent a distinct faction within the American political landscape. The Democrats, Republicans and Third Party members will assume their assigned role, research its position concerning campaign finance, and generally gain adequate knowledge to represent this position articulately in the press conference. The Committee for Reform is comprised of average citizens who are unhappy with present campaign finance practices. This group will research the topic, reach a consensus as to a better solution, articulate it, and be prepared to respond intelligently to questions at the press conference. Finally, the Journalists will research the topic to gain a thorough understanding, formulate questions for each faction and be prepared to ask both initial and follow-up questions in the press conference.
    3. Distribute additional articles on campaign finance to all groups.
    4. Have each group divide responsibility for specialization on each individual article amongst themselves. Provide time for group to discuss their assignment, role, and to formulate any questions they may have before continuing.
  • Day 2 and 3:
    1. Groups work together to formulate a written outline of their assigned role. Journalists work on mastering material through group discussion and further research and reading. Formulate questions for each group.
  • Day 4:
    1. Using chart paper and markers, have each group record their progress to this point. Items to include are main points of position, ideas for presentation, etc.
    2. One by one groups present. Other groups provide feedback for how and where to improve. When finished return to individual groups to revise and improve as needed.
  • Day 5: Practice press conference. All students must contribute. Note-taking should be encouraged.
    1. Keep chart/ listing of points raised by each group.
    2. Open the press conference by welcoming the assembled personages to the White House pressroom for the press conference on campaign finance. The more seriously you establish the tone, the more professionally your students will behave.
    3. In whatever order desired have each faction present their opening position statement and respond to questions from the floor. Continue in this vein until all factions have presented. (Will most likely take less than the full period.)
    4. Allow students from other factions to ask questions after the Journalists have presented their initial questions. This provides for a richer dialogue and encourages all to remain engaged.
    5. When all groups have presented and responded to questions, conclude conference. Send groups back to regroup and evaluate their performance. They should consider what went well, didn't go well, what points were made or questions were asked that they were not prepared for. The group will revamp its strategy preparatory to the following day.
  • Day 6: Actual press conference.
    1. Follow outline of conference provided above. This time, having practiced and seen their weaknesses, you should find a higher quality performance that may span two days. Allow the conference to progress naturally, but provide assistance as needed.
    2. When conference is concluded, each group is assigned the following concluding activity:

      What laws should be passed regarding campaign finance?
      If none, justify this position. Present findings in written form.
      Meet as editorial board and develop editorial and feature article on press conference.
      Present in written form.

  • Final Cumulative Activity -Reflective letter: Reflective letters allow the teacher to evaluate more clearly the learning that an activity or lesson has evoked. Furthermore, it allows a student the freedom to share insights, suggestions, and reactions to any given activity, a valuable reassessment tool for teachers seeking to improve their own presentation.
  • Each student writes a reflective letter responding to questions you pose, such as:
    1. What worked well with this simulation?
    2. What did you like? Dislike? Why?
    3. What problems did you/your group encounter?
    4. What did you learn?
    5. What did you teach your group?
    6. What suggestions do you have for improving this simulation in the future?
  • These letters can spark excellent discussion to extend the activity as well.
  • Republicans, Democrats, Third Party Candidates, Concerned Citizens:
    1. In groups, discuss what “went well” in the press conference. On what issues does your group continue to stand firm? List out those strong issues.
    2. What questions arose in the press conference that caused you to reconsider or reevaluate your stance (even slightly)? List the issues on which you faltered.
    3. What specific changes do you propose to our current laws/policies on campaign finance? Why do you suggest these legal revisions? If you do not think any changes are needed, why is the current system appropriate for your group? Answer these questions in a POSITION STATEMENT that accurately and precisely reflects your views. Be sure to provide rationale for your arguments.
  • Position statement must include the names of all group members and the name of your group (i.e. Republicans, Democrats, etc.). The position statement will be collected at the conclusion of class today.
  • Journalists
    1. As a group, discuss what questions elicited the best responses. What “went well” during the press conference? What groups did you feel you were most successful with and why?
    2. What line(s) of questioning did not work well and why? What could you have done differently to ensure greater success?
    3. Which group(s) surprised you? Why?
    4. Write an Editorial? Discuss the major points made by each of the groups and determine, as an editorial staff, what changes (if any) should be make in the current lasws surrounding campaign finance. Be sure to justify your opinion with actual evidence from the participants’ comments during the conference. This is a group opinion and the pronoun “we” should be employed (i.e. “we believe…”).
  • Editorial must include the names of all group members and should be labeled, “Journalists”. The editorial will be collected at the conclusion of class today.


Enduring Understandings:

  • Funding issues greatly effect modem politics.
  • Individual citizens have a tremendous impact on politics and elections.

Essential Questions:

  • Can the choices of average Americans make a difference in the political process?
  • Should the right to contribute financially be limited?
  • Why has the traditional two-party system been rejected?

Suitability: Designed as an interdisciplinary lesson involving both government and journalism students this activity is easily modified for an individual class.

If you have any comments or suggestions about this activity or would like to submit your own activity, please contact us and share your ideas.