Wednesday, April 28, 2004
A federal appeals court refused yesterday to support mandatory limits on candidate spending in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can read their full ruling here.
Albuquerque voters enacted tough spending limits in 1974 by a vote of 90% to 10%. Clearly the voters felt like they had enough proof that big money in politics had gotten out of control and they decided to do something about it. The United States Supreme Court nixed spending limits that applied to congressional races in 1976 (the infamous Buckley v. Valeo ruling that wrong equated unlimited candidates spending with free speech). But, Albuquerque's limits remained in place through 1997, and their elections generally went just fine.
But, then some big money candidates decided they wanted to challenge Albuquerque's law, so they hired some lawyers and got busy. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals took their side. The Court said that while its entirely possible that Albuquerque's spending limits are OK, Albuquerque hadn't proven it. The Court basically said that spending limits are guilty until proven innocent, and the City hadn't shown enough evidence to back up its claims that the spending limits were needed to reduce corruption, reduce time that candidates spend fundraising, or preserving electoral competition. And the Court refused to even entertain the most obvious reason for spending limits -- creating a level playing field among all candidates.
So there you have it. The evidence that was good enough for 90 percent of the voters wasn't good enough for a couple of unelected judges. Sounds like another case of rampant judicial activism to me.