The Constitutional Parameters of Campaign Finance Reform
Richard E. Levy
University of Kansas - School of Law
June 1, 1999
Kansas Journal of Law & Pubic Policy, Vol. 8, p. 43, 1999
Few issues today are more controversial than campaign finance reform. Fueled by a widespread public belief that the political process has been improperly distorted by the immense costs of running for public office, and the resulting perception that those who make significant campaign contributions or independent expenditures may exert undue influence on the legislative process, a number of proposals for campaign finance reform have been introduced at both the federal and state levels. At the same time, however, government regulation of political campaigns raises concerns that lie at the core of the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech. Uncertainty regarding the permissible constitutional parameters of campaign finance reform further complicates the already difficult task faced by legislative bodies considering campaign finance reform legislation.
Thus article, adapted from written testimony provided to the Kansas Legislature’s Special Committee on Local Government, is intended to help clarify these constitutional parameters and thereby provide assistance to policymakers on this complex issue. My goal is not to advocate a particular position on the merits of campaign finance reform, but to explain the current state of the law in as neutral a manner as possible. In particular, the Committee asked me to address the related subjects of “independent expenditures” and “soft money.” In responding to this request, the article consists of three parts. First, I will review the United States Supreme Court's decision in Buckley v. Valeo, which established the basic constitutional principles governing campaign finance regulation. Second, I will discuss the development of the Buckley principles in subsequent judicial decisions, with particular reference to the implications of the case law for regulation of independent expenditures and soft money. Finally, I will attempt to summarize the permissible scope of campaign finance regulation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 14Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: November 7, 2011
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