Fooling the Court

In this article, Capital University Law Professor and Center for Competitive Politics Chairman and Co-Founder Brad Smith addresses two 2006 Supreme Court cases relating to campaign finance. Specifically, he argues that the Court is often fundamentally misled about the nature of money in politics. Smith analyzes the factual components of recent cases League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry and Randall v. Sorrell to illustrate how arguments in favor of restricting political spending and speech rely on assumptions about corruption that are unsupported by empirical evidence. In Randall, Vermont attempted to justify extremely low contribution limits on the grounds that they were necessary to prevent corruption, despite the state’s Attorney General having never once prosecuted a politician for corruption. Smith also raises skepticism about the common depiction of politicians spending all their free time fundraising, noting that campaigns for legislative office in Vermont cost an average of only $4,000. According to Smith, the Supreme Court is unlikely to make wise rulings if it approaches the subject of campaign finance law with grossly inaccurate assumptions about how the system operates in practice. Clearing up common misconceptions about money in politics is an essential step towards improving campaign law and defending the First Amendment.