Thursday, August 19, 2004

Second Circuit Says Campaign Spending Limits Are Constitutional

Yesterday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that mandatory spending limits for political campaigns can be constitutional. In Landell v. Sorrell, the court stated that Vermont had established two compelling interests in support of its spending limits - "preventing the reality and appearance of corruption and protecting the time of candidates and elected officials." The court remanded the case back to the district court to determine whether Vermont had narrowly tailored its law to meet those compelling interests.

The court also upheld the Vermont law's limits of between $200 and $400 on contributions to candidates made by individuals and political action committees.

The decision on spending limits is a big step forward for efforts to reduce the influence of big money in our elections. This past spring, the Tenth Circuit issued a conflicting opinion in Homans v. Albuquerque, a case dealing with the spending limits passed by the people of Albuquerque, so yesterday's decision may pave the way for the Supreme Court to resolve the matter this fall. In doing so, the Supreme Court will have an opportunity to reconsider the rushed and misguided reasoning of Buckley v. Valeo, a 1976 Supreme Court decision which wrongly equated money with free speech.

For more perspective and info, check out our posts on Homans from August 17th and June 4th, Derek's op-ed in the Albuquerque Tribune, or the National Voting Rights Institute, which has been working to get the Supreme Court to revisit the Buckley decision for some time.

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