The Constitutionality of Campaign Finance Legislation: After Buckley v. Valeo
Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law
Arizona State Law Journal, Vol, 34, p. 1105, 2002
Substantive regulations of the private financing of election campaigns generally fall into one or more of three categories: (1) restrictions on the contributions that can be made to election campaigns; (2) restrictions on campaign expenditures that candidates and those under their control can make; and (3) restrictions on independent campaign expenditures, i.e., expenditures relating to campaigns by those not under the control of a candidate. In its 1976 decision Buckley v. Valeo, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the constitutional validity of each of these three kinds of regulations in response to a facial challenge to Congress's 1974 amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. The Court held that the monetary contribution limits contained in those amendments were constitutional, but that the amendments' monetary limits on both candidate and independent campaign expenditures violated the First Amendment.
Almost everyone who has commented on Buckley in the quarter century since it was decided agrees with at least part of the Court's decision. There is strong disagreement, however, about which part of the decision is correct.
This article argues that the Buckley Court was correct in holding that reasonable campaign contribution limits are constitutional and incorrect in holding that campaign expenditure limits are unconstitutional. The Court majority failed to recognize that, while campaign expenditure limits probably cannot be justified by the same legitimate and powerful reasons that support campaign contribution limits, they can be justified by other equally legitimate and powerful reasons.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 9
Keywords: elections, First Amendment, campaign financeAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: June 25, 2009
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