The Millionaire's Amendment: Stricken

27 Jun

Jack Davis won one.

In Supreme Court, he valiantly defended the first amendment rights of millionaires everywhere (.pdf). In Davis v. FEC, a 5-4 court (opinion by Justice Alito) held, among other things, that it was a first amendment violation for the FEC to reward the opponents of self-funded candidates who spend over $350,000 of their own money. Under the stricken rule, Davis’ opponents would be able to raise triple the normal amount from individual donors, and receive unlimited coordinated party funds if Davis spent over $350,000 of his own funds towards his election. Notably, in 2006 Reynolds declined to do so and the FEC argued that this fact rendered Davis’ case moot. (The Supreme Court disagreed.)

The Court also found that the heightened disclosure requirements that the Millionaire’s Amendment triggered were unconstitutionally burdensome.

Justice Alito expressly made the point that if the law was evenhanded, and also allowed the millionaire’s donors to donate more than the usual amount, etc., then the law would be constitutional. The basis for the Court’s ruling is based on the holding of Buckley v. Valeo, which struck down limitations on personal expenditures on federal political campaigns. The only valid public interest to be protected by any campaign finance limitations is the prevention of corruption, not to even the playing field.

While this makes it significantly more difficult for middle class folks to run for office against the wealthy, no amount of money can buy motivated volunteers and activists. Hopefully, congress will revisit this statute and pass a replacement that complies with the Court’s holding. It seems ridiculous to limit donations to $2,300 from individuals for candidates competing against someone who is injecting $3,000,000 of a lump sum into a campaign. If the result is that the millionaire can, in turn, raise up to $6,900 from individuals, so be it.

3 Responses to “The Millionaire's Amendment: Stricken”

  1. Jim Allen June 27, 2008 at 9:36 am #

    Well now, Jack has one more thing he can cross off his Bucket List!!!

  2. Greg June 27, 2008 at 5:45 pm #

    I’m not a Davis fan, but you have to admit it’s kind of cool that someone local managed to get a case heard by the Supreme Court

  3. Adam K June 29, 2008 at 10:16 am #

    Hey BP,

    The reason the case wasn’t moot was because Davis was in non-compliance with the rule in 2006 by failing to report increased spending fast enough, and the FEC was trying to fine him.

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