The Disappearance of Corruption and the New Path Forward in Campaign Finance
55 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2014 Last revised: 20 Nov 2015
Date Written: July 15, 2014
The reason reformers cloak their plans for changing the campaign finance system in the language of corruption is because of the Supreme Court. In Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 case that put corruption at the center of campaign finance law, the Supreme Court held that the only compelling justification that could be used to impose limits on campaign contributions is the government’s interest in preventing “corruption” and the “appearance of corruption.” All other justifications have led to laws being struck down for violating the freedoms of the First Amendment. This Article argues, however, that the Court’s corruption paradigm has now outlived its usefulness. It has been inconsistently applied, and it has led to more confusion than clarity. Because new legislation regulating campaign finance is likely to be struck down by the Court, Congress no longer has the stomach to regulate in this area. For this reason, this article argues that champions of campaign finance reform need to find a new path forward. One such path that this Article proposes is to let Congress regulate campaign finance through its internal ethics rules.
Keywords: election law, campaign finance, corruption, Buckley v. Valeo, McCutcheon v. FEC
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