How has the Buckley v. Valeo decision affected campaign finance legislation and litigation?
- What is the Buckley decision?
- Corruption as the only compelling interest for campaign finance regulations
- The polemical money equals speech assertion
The Supreme Court by its recent decision Randall v. Sorrell of the 26th of June 2006 struck down a law of the state of Vermont which severely limited the amount of money a candidate for state offices can raise and spend. The Supreme Court’s rationale was based on the violation by such laws of the First amendment of the Constitution of the United States. This Amendment which insures citizens’ freedom is highly protected in the United States. For example, it is impossible in the United States to sue someone for racist declarations because it would infringe the freedom of speech.
Actually, the Randall v. Sorrell decision is not surprising given that it is coherent with the previous US Supreme Court’s decisions. Indeed, The Buckley v. Valeo case law of the 30th of January 1976 is an essential decision as regards campaign finance law in the United States because it is the starting point for the judicial analysis of the constitutionality of campaign finance restrictions. Known as the “money equals speech” decision, Buckley has been widely criticized ever since as a threat for the integrity of the electoral process. As one of the more shaping decisions for campaign finance law in the United States it is an important target in the debate about campaign finance reform.
In this paper, I will seek to understand how the Buckley decision has affected subsequent campaign finance legislation and litigation. I will argue that Buckley restricted the possibilities of campaign finance regulation and so that a real regulation of the electoral process implies to overrule Buckley.
[...] Hartlage in 1982, the Court held that candidate’s promises in an election were attempt to buy votes or to bribe the voters.” But Justice Brennan’s opinion dissented from this statement, referring to the Buckley decision of 1974. According to him, the promise of a candidate could not deemed beyond the reach of the First Amendment, or considered as inviting the kind of corrupt arrangement the appearance of which a State may have a compelling interest in avoiding. See [Buckley].” An example: the distinction between expenditures and contributions. [...]
[...] However it has to be noted that an overruling of Buckley would have a ripple effect on much more aspects of the First Amendment legal landscape than on campaign finance law. Other areas related to the First Amendment on which Buckley has an impact like commercial speech, associational rights, non electoral political speech, fundraising activities and so on would be significantly altered. Conclusions The Buckley decision is complex, between very precise distinctions maybe too precise and at the same time concepts such as corruption which are widely insufficient. [...]
[...] The Supreme Court introduced a new distinction in campaign finance law, between Issue and Express Advocacy. Indeed, the FECA defined the notions of “contributions” and “expenditures” as the fact of providing money the purpose of [ ] influencing election”. The Supreme Court held that this definition was too vague and attempted to precise it. In doing so, the Court defined the “expenditures” as the fact of “reaching only funds used for communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate”. [...]
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