"High Court Declines to Find a Compelling Interest in Limiting Candidate Expenditures and Rules Vermont’s Contribution Limits Unconstitutionally Low "
PRESS RELEASE: June 26, 2006
Professor Lillian R. BeVier: (434) 924-3132
Erik S. Jaffe (202)237-8165
Professor Bradley A. Smith (614) 236-6317
Arlington, Va. – In an effort to affirm prior precedent, the Supreme Court today invalidated Vermont’s limits on candidate expenditures, and invalidated as well the State’s unduly low limits on contributions made to candidates by party committees and individuals. “The most significant part of the opinion is the rejection of the spending limits; specifically, the Court’s decision not to find a compelling interest in limiting candidate expenditures, and not to remand that question to a lower court for narrow tailoring. This means that the Court has reinvigorated the relatively strict review of campaign finance regulations that it endorsed in its seminal 1976 Buckley opinion,” said Lillian R. BeVier, Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law and Academic Advisor to the Center for Competitive Politics (“CCP”), a non-profit organization that filed an amicus curiae brief in today’s case, Randall v. Sorrell, No. 04-1528.
The Court also invalidated contribution limits of $200, $300, and $400 dollars as an unnecessary burden on challengers. “By applying five factors, the Court found that Vermont’s restrictions on a candidate’s ability to raise funds negatively impact electoral competition and citizen participation,” said former Federal Election Commissioner Bradley A. Smith, Professor of Law at Capital University Law School. “Today’s opinion sets some quantifiable boundary on the ‘complaisant review’ the Court afforded legislative attempts to set contribution limits regimes only several years ago in its Shrink Missouri opinion,” Smith said.
“Another interesting dynamic in the case is the collection of jurists signing onto each of the six separate opinions,” said Erik S. Jaffe, noted First Amendment expert, former Supreme Court clerk and counsel to the amici in the case. “Justice Breyer, siding with the Chief Justice and Justice Alito rather than with his more speech-restrictive colleagues, showed there is a point past which even he will not go in extending restrictions seemingly permitted by some of the Court’s recent decisions. While Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion noted correctly the continuing incoherence of the Court’s reasoning in campaign finance and a need for further protection of political speech, today’s decision at least suggests that the pendulum is swinging back in favor of the First Amendment, even if it does not solve the larger, structural illogic of campaign finance cases,” Jaffe said.
Joining CCP in the brief were the Cato Institute, the Institute for Justice, the Reason Foundation, and the Goldwater Institute.
The Center for Competitive Politics is a non-profit organization founded in August 2005 by former Federal Election Commissioner Bradley A. Smith and Stephen M. Hoersting, a campaign finance attorney and former General Counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. CCP’s mission, through legal briefs, studies, historical and constitutional analyses, and media communication, is to educate the public on the actual effects of money in politics, and the results of a more free and competitive electoral process.