Recalibrating Campaign Finance Law

21 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2014 Last revised: 1 Jul 2014

See all articles by Anthony Johnstone

Anthony Johnstone

University of Montana School of Law

Date Written: December 3, 2013


This essay suggests a framework for recalibrating campaign finance contribution limits and disclosure thresholds to the current campaign practices of particular jurisdictions. Campaign finance regimes have varied widely across several political eras and several jurisdictional scales. Strikingly, although similar six-figure campaign finance scandals prompted the reforms of each era, federal lawmakers have drawn progressively lower one-size-fits-all contribution limits and disclosure thresholds. Meanwhile, state campaign finance laws often are more carefully calibrated to reflect the electoral and financial fundamentals of various campaigns. As current campaign finance doctrine narrows the permissible ends of campaign finance regulation to anti-corruption and publicity, it also requires a better fit between those ends and the means of setting contribution limits and disclosure thresholds. Under this more demanding doctrine, recalibration can better align these specific regulations with the general constitutional justifications for — and policy goals of — our system of campaign finance law. Recalibration offers an opportunity for both opponents and proponents of regulation to ensure a better fit between the means and ends of campaign finance law.

Keywords: campaign finance, corruption, disclosure, Citizens United

Suggested Citation

Johnstone, Anthony, Recalibrating Campaign Finance Law (December 3, 2013). 32 Yale Law & Policy Review 217 (2013), Available at SSRN:

Anthony Johnstone (Contact Author)

University of Montana School of Law ( email )

Missoula, MT 59812-0002
United States


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