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This just in… Supremes overturn “Millionaire’s amendment”

Thursday, Jun 26, 2008

*** 10:16 am *** This may get lost in the shuffle because of the gun ruling, but it could greatly impact congressional and US Senate races throughout the country

The Supreme Court has struck down the “millionaire’s amendment” as an unfair way to help opponents of wealthy candidates who spend from their personal fortunes.

The law allows candidates to receive larger contributions when their wealthy opponents spend heavily from their personal fortunes.

The court says by a 5-4 vote that the law violates the First Amendment.

The law was challenged by Jack Davis, a New York Democrat who has so far spent nearly $4 million of his own money in two losing campaigns for Congress and says he will spend another $3 million this year.

* More

The majority overturned both the contribution limits for opponents of affluent candidates and a requirement that millionaires report every $10,000 expenditure within 24 hours. [emphasis added[

* More

At least 24 House candidates have triggered the millionaires’ amendment this cycle. Of those, 10 remain active — while others either lost a primary or dropped out.

In the Senate, at least four candidates had triggered the amendment by April, two of whom are still active.

*** 10:26 am *** The ruling can be viewed at this link.

* From the opinion

This Court has never upheld the constitutionality of a law that imposes
different contribution limits for candidates competing against each other, and it agrees with Davis that this scheme impermissibly burdens his First Amendment right to spend his own money for campaign speech… While BCRA does not impose a cap on a
candidate’s expenditure of personal funds, it imposes an unprecedented penalty on any candidate who robustly exercises that First Amendment right, requiring him to choose between the right to engage in unfettered political speech and subjection to discriminatory fundraising limitations. The resulting drag on First Amendment rights is not constitutional simply because it attaches as a consequence of a statutorily imposed choice.

*** 10:43 am *** And here’s the Court’s message to Congress…

If the normally applicable limits on individual contributions and coordinated party contributions are seriously distorting the electoral process, if they are feeding a “public perception that wealthy people can buy seats in Congress,” and if those limits are not needed in order to combat corruption, then the obvious remedy is to raise or eliminate those limits. But the unprecedented step of imposing different contribution and coordinated party expenditure limits on candidates vying for the same seat is antithetical to the First Amendment.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ghost - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 10:28 am:

    This is a tough one, I see both sides. Overall I think it was a flawed solution because it creates a classification of individuals and singles them out.

    I think it gives wealthy canidates a dramatically unfair advantage in a media age. Perhaps a better solution would just be a cap limiting all canidates expenditures from their own funds regardless of how much or litle money they have.

  2. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 10:42 am:

    I don’t like money in politics.
    But I don’t believe anyone wins when some arbitrary group imposes limits on one candidate over another. The law was inherently unfair.

    I also don’t believe being wealthy should be considered a crime or a political disqualifier.

    But I do have a problem with a candidate that advocates public financing until they discover they can collect enough cash to run without it, and then cough up lies to justify their hypocracies on the issue. It shows them to be a liar and a fraud.

  3. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 10:46 am:

    ===when some arbitrary group===

    Like Congress?

  4. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 10:53 am:

    It’s a greek word for “arbitrary”!

  5. - Ghost - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 10:54 am:

    VM I know what you mean, if the RNC would just come out and agree not to spend their unlimited funds to attacks canidates from their warchest while maintiang the hypocritical position that there should be a limit on spending, we would all be better off. If only the republicans would commit to actual public financing limits and not use splinter organizations to loophole around the limits and render them meaningless.

    If only the republicans could stand for somthing besides hyprocsys and stop their lies about wanting to operate within public finance limits while running campaigns using mutltiple oragnizations and funds so as to side skirt their false support of a law they have no intention of complying by use of loopholes.

    But we can’t keep the repubs from being liars and using loopholes to stand outside the law. If Bush-cheney and McCain have taugh us anything, its that the republicans find the law to be somthing that does not apply to them.

  6. - McG - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 11:44 am:

    Take that, Dick Durbin.

  7. - ZC - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 11:55 am:

    This can be mostly fixed, relatively easily, if Congress musters the will. The problem is that getting any kind of campaign finance bill passed through Congress has been like pulling teeth. Still, the threat of getting attacked in primary campaigns by multimillionaire Blair Hulls may stir incumbents to action.

    According to this opinion, if I read it right, all you need do is raise the caps for everyone concerned, the rich candidate and the poor candidate alike, when somebody breaks the personal wealth barrier. The poor candidate should still benefit disproportionately from that, in practice, and that’s the intent of this provision. The rich candidate wouldn’t have broken the barrier in the first place, if he was able to get people to contribute to him. There are few worse signs of a candidacy in trouble than the inability to get people to make donations to you.

    I haven’t read it yet, but does this apply _right now_, to the current cycle? That’s a bit obnoxious. We’re in June. The Supremes shouldn’t throw a curve ball into the mix, this late into the cycle.

  8. - muon - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 12:23 pm:

    Ghost, you can’t cap personal expenditures to one’s own campaign. The Supremes ruled in 1976 that such a cap, attempted in 1974, was a 1st amendment violation. ZC has the right remedy which would be for Congress to open the limits on all candidates if personal contributions for one exceeded some limit.

  9. - so-called "Austin Mayor" - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 2:07 pm:


    Someone has had the courage to stand-up for the rights of our nation’s downtrodden oligarchs.

    They have suffered too much for too long.

    – SCAM
    so-called “Austin Mayor”

  10. - scoot - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 2:57 pm:

    Not good news for Halvorson

  11. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 3:07 pm:

    Not necessarily. Ozinga has said he isn’t going to put much more of his own money into the race and his spokesperson just confirmed that the ruling won’t apply to them.

  12. - scoot - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 3:13 pm:

    I stand corrected

  13. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jun 26, 08 @ 3:18 pm:


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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