The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a campaign finance case, Davis v. FEC, challenging the so-called Millionaires’ Amendment provision of McCain-Feingold.
"This case will go a long way towards determining the future direction of the Court’s campaign finance jurisprudence," said Bradley A. Smith, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics. "If the Millionaires’ Amendment is upheld it would give Congress a new tool that it can use to regulate political speech."
The Millionaires’ Amendment, while a provision of McCain-Feingold, was not challenged in the McConnell case because the plaintiff lacked adequate standing to challenge the provision.
The Millionaires’ Amendment increases contribution limits for candidates facing self-financed opponents by at least 300 percent. The provision also imposes reporting requirements upon the self-financing candidate and relaxes coordination restrictions with state and national political party committees for the self-funder’s opponent.
The Supreme Court case has consistently ruled that government must have a compelling interest – such as preventing corruption – to justify any type of campaign finance regulation.
"But the Millionaire’s Amendment relies on an unrecognized justification – that government can level the playing field between candidates," Smith explained. "Such a concept is wholly foreign to the First Amendment. Congress is not allowed to tinker with people’s speech rights because it thinks some people are speaking too much, or others not enough."