ListMoto - Buckley V. Valeo

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BUCKLEY V. VALEO, 424 US 1 (1976) is a US constitutional law Supreme Court case on campaign finance . A majority of judges held that limits on election spending in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 §608 are unconstitutional. In a per curiam (by the Court) opinion, they ruled that expenditure limits contravene the First Amendment provision on freedom of speech because a restriction on spending for political communication necessarily reduces the quantity of expression. It limited disclosure provisions and limited the Federal Election Commission 's power. Justice Byron White
Byron White
dissented in part and wrote that Congress had legitimately recognized unlimited election spending "as a mortal danger against which effective preventive and curative steps must be taken."

Buckley v. Valeo
Buckley v. Valeo
was extended by the US Supreme Court
US Supreme Court
in further cases, including in the five to four decision of First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti and in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010. The latter held that corporations may spend from their general treasuries during elections. In 2014, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission
Federal Election Commission
held that aggregate limits on political giving by an individual are unconstitutional.


* 1 Facts

* 2 Judgment

* 2.1 General principles * 2.2 Contribution limits * 2.3 Expenditure limits * 2.4 Reporting and disclosure requirements * 2.5 Public funding of campaigns * 2.6 Make-up of FEC

* 3 Dissents * 4 Significance * 5 See also * 6 Notes * 7 References * 8 External links


In 1974, Congress passed significant amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, creating the most comprehensive effort by the federal government to date to regulate federal campaign contributions and spending. President Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford
signed the bill into law on October 15. The key parts of the amended law did the following:

* limited contributions to candidates for federal office (2 USC §441a) * required the disclosure of political contributions (2 USC §434), * provided for the public financing of presidential elections (IRC Subtitle H), * limited expenditures by candidates and associated committees, * limited independent expenditures to $1,000 (formerly 18 U.S.C. §608e), * limited candidate expenditures from personal funds (formerly 18 U.S.C. §608a), * created and fixed the method of appointing members to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) (formerly 2 U.S.C. §437c(a) (1)(A–C)). Eight members of the commission were to be chosen as follows: the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives were ex officio members of the Commission without a right to vote; two members would be appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate upon recommendations of the majority and minority leaders of the Senate; two would be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives upon recommendations of the majority and minority leaders of the House, and two would be appointed by the President. The six voting members would then need to be confirmed by the majority of both Houses of Congress. In addition, there was a requirement that each of the three appointing authorities was forbidden to choose both of their appointees from the same political party.

The lawsuit was filed in the District Court for the District of Columbia , on January 2, 1975, by U.S. Senator James L. Buckley (a member of the Conservative Party of New York State ), former U.S. Senator and 1968 presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy (a Democrat from Minnesota), the New York Civil Liberties Union, the American Conservative Union, the Peace border: none; padding: 4px 10px;"> Justice White (above) would have upheld the law's limits on expenditures and contributions.

Concededly, neither the limitations on contributions nor those on expenditures directly or indirectly purport to control the content of political speech by candidates or by their supporters or detractors. What the Act regulates is giving and spending money, acts that have First Amendment
First Amendment
significance not because they are themselves communicative with respect to the qualifications of the candidate, but because money may be used to defray the expenses of speaking or otherwise communicating about the merits or demerits of federal candidates for election. The act of giving money to political candidates, however, may have illegal or other undesirable consequences: it may be used to secure the express or tacit understanding that the giver will enjoy political favor if the candidate is elected. Both Congress and this Court's cases have recognized this as a mortal danger against which effective preventive and curative steps must be taken.

I also disagree with the Court's judgment that § 608(a), which limits the amount of money that a candidate or his family may spend on his campaign, violates the Constitution. Although it is true that this provision does not promote any interest in preventing the corruption of candidates, the provision does, nevertheless, serve salutary purposes related to the integrity of federal campaigns. By limiting the importance of personal wealth, § 608(a) helps to assure that only individuals with a modicum of support from others will be viable candidates. This in turn would tend to discourage any notion that the outcome of elections is primarily a function of money. Similarly, § 608(a) tends to equalize access to the political arena, encouraging the less wealthy, unable to bankroll their own campaigns, to run for political office.

Since the contribution and expenditure limitations are neutral as to the content of speech and are not motivated by fear of the consequences of the political speech of particular candidates or of political speech in general, this case depends on whether the nonspeech interests of the Federal Government in regulating the use of money in political campaigns are sufficiently urgent to justify the incidental effects that the limitations visit upon the First Amendment interests of candidates and their supporters. ”

Justice Marshall dissented on the point of limiting personal contributions and expenditures by a candidate to his or her own campaign - he would have upheld that provision, which was stricken by the Court.

“ One of the points on which all Members of the Court agree is that money is essential for effective communication in a political campaign. It would appear to follow that the candidate with a substantial personal fortune at his disposal is off to a significant "headstart." Of course, the less wealthy candidate can potentially overcome the disparity in resources through contributions from others. But ability to generate contributions may itself depend upon a showing of a financial base for the campaign or some demonstration of preexisting support, which, in turn, is facilitated by expenditures of substantial personal sums. Thus, the wealthy candidate's immediate access to a substantial personal fortune may give him an initial advantage that his less wealthy opponent can never overcome. And even if the advantage can be overcome, the perception that personal wealth wins elections may not only discourage potential candidates without significant personal wealth from entering the political arena, but also undermine public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process. ”

Justice Rehnquist dissented on the application of the public funding provisions to minor parties, believing that it unconstitutional as applied to them.

Justice Blackmun would have held that contribution limits are unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Burger would have held that contribution limits are unconstitutional, that the government financing provisions are unconstitutional, and that disclosure of small contributions to campaigns is unconstitutional.


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Buckley has been criticized both for being too protective of political spending and contributions, and for not being protective enough of speech. Nevertheless, the case remains the starting point for judicial analysis of the constitutionality of campaign finance restrictions. Although the decision upheld restrictions on the size of campaign contributions, the Court's decision left in place a demand for money by striking down limits on expenditures. By limiting the supply of funds (contribution limits) but not the demand for funds, this may have increased fund raising pressures on candidates. The decision left intact the ability of government to offer direct funding for campaigns, but struck down the ability to force candidates to accept public funding and accompanying limits on expenditures. The Court's decision also upheld the public disclosure of political contributions, but only contributions made to candidates and parties, organizations with the primary purpose of influencing campaigns, and for contributions used to directly advocate for or against a candidate.

Perhaps most important for the future development of the law was Buckley's unequivocal rejection of the promotion of equality as a basis for limiting contributions or spending. This has significantly limited any effort to promote political equality through regulation of campaign spending and contributions. In 2008, the Court further restricted attempts to equalize spending in elections for the U.S. House and Senate when it struck down the "Millionaires Amendment" in FEC v. Davis (originally Davis v. FEC ). That case overturned legislation that allowed candidates to accept larger contributions if their opponent spent substantially from personal wealth. In 2010, the Court overturned Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce
Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce
(1990) and part of McConnell v. Federal Election Commission
Federal Election Commission
in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
Federal Election Commission
. In Citizens United, the Court followed Buckley's holding by providing more expansive First Amendment protections for independent expenditures made on a candidate's behalf. The Court held that Congress could not ban independent expenditures by corporations. The next year, in Arizona Free Enterprise PAC v. Bennett (2011) the Court further restricted state authority to regulate campaign finance to achieve greater equality, striking down provisions of Arizona's public financing system that gave extra government money to candidates who faced high-spending opponents or high levels of independent expenditures.

Buckley's protections for political speech and activity, and skepticism of government efforts to regulate such activity, distinguish the United States from many other developed democracies. For instance, under the European Convention on Human Rights
European Convention on Human Rights
, it was held in Bowman v United Kingdom that equality of citizens' voices is a legitimate purpose, and spending money is not the core of freedom of expression. The leading case in Europe, Animal Defenders International v United Kingdom held that the UK's total ban on political advertising is compatible with freedom of expression "given the danger of unequal access based on wealth and to political advertising" which goes "to the heart of the democratic process." In Harper v. Canada (Attorney General) , Canada's highest court held that rules designed to limit spending on elections are legitimate because they prevent conflicts of interest and promote political equality .


* List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 424 * Bowman v United Kingdom ECHR 4, (1998) 26 EHRR 1 * Harper v. Canada (Attorney General) SCR 827


* ^ 424 U.S. 1 (1976) * ^ 435 U.S. 765 (1978) * ^ No. 08-205, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) * ^ 572 U.S. ___ (2014) * ^ https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/aclu-amicus-brief-federal-election-commission-v-akins * ^ nb Associate Justice Harry Blackmun's papers indicate that Associate Justice William Rehnquist
William Rehnquist
drafted the separation-of-powers portion of the per curiam opinion. * ^ 424 US 1, 260-5 (1976) * ^ 424 US 1, 288 (1976) * ^ ECHR 4, (1998) 26 EHRR 1 * ^ ECHR 362, and see UKHL 15, - and - * ^ SCR 827


* Smith, Craig R. (2003). "Buckley v. Valeo". In Parker, Richard A. (ed.). Free Speech on Trial: Communication Perspectives on Landmark Supreme Court Decisions. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press. pp. 203–217. ISBN 0-8173-1301-X . CS1 maint: Extra text: editors list (link )