Friday, January 11, 2008

McCain-Feingold's Millionaire's Amendment to be Heard by Supreme Court

Teh Supreme Court announced today that it will hold an appeal hearing on the case of Davis v. Federal Election Commission, a challenge to the Millionaire's Amendment.
The provisions, which increase contribution limits by at least 300 percent for candidates facing a self-financed opponent, are being challenged by Jack Davis, a former Democratic congressional candidate in New York's 26th district.

In court filings, Davis argues that the Millionaire's Amendment does not limit "the corrupting influence of campaign contributors" and instead, "serves to protect well-financed incumbents who wrote the statute."

"This case exposes and undermines the ‘corruption rationale' used to justify most campaign finance laws," says Bradley A. Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, which will file an amicus brief in the case.

"There is no way to credibly argue that receiving a contribution in excess of $2,300 is corrupting when facing an opponent of ordinary financial means, but then, if your opponent happens to be rich, that same contribution amount no longer corrupts."

Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court case upholding the establishment of modern campaign finance laws, justified contribution limits by ruling that there is a compelling government interest in guarding against both corruption of candidates and officeholders or the appearance of corruption.

Congress, Davis argues, passed the Millionaire's Amendment as an incumbent protection device that depends on an unconstitutional, egalitarian interpretation of the First Amendment.

"Congress is not allowed to tinker with people's speech rights because it thinks some people are speaking too much, or others not enough," explains Smith. "That line of thought is entirely contrary to the First Amendment."

Davis contends that the Millionaire's Amendment is intended to dramatically tilt the field in order to protect incumbents from self-financed opponents.

"Efforts to regulate political speech are often ripe with political motives," observes Smith. "There are few things an incumbent fear more than a self-financed challenger and the Millionaire's Amendment is a naked attempt to help incumbents win reelection."
I have long thought the provision unconstitutional and have been hoping for someone to challenge the provision.

The McConnell case did not reach a decision on the Millionaire's Amendment because no one in teh case had standing to sue on the matter. But Davis does and finally, I hope, we will get an answer on the issue. Aside from equal protection arguments, the Amendment does just as Smith points out, it makes one limit corrupting but another limit not corrupting.

To be fair, though, if hte Amendment is ruled unconstitutional by the Court, you will see more, not less, self-financed canddiates and I am not sure that is necessarily a good thing for America. But that is an issue for the voters to decide on, a person's free speech rights should not be limited if they are rich or poor.

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