Monday, October 25, 2004
TheRestofUs.org filed a "friend of the Court" brief today with the U.S. Supreme Court urging them to take a case dealing with mandatory campaign spending limits. Albuquerque voters enacted limits on local campaign spending by a 90% vote in 1974. They were in effect for nearly 30 years, leading to better elections. They were then struck down by the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals. See my April 2004 post here for more details.
You can download a PDF copy of our brief here. I'd like to thank New Mexico PIRG, Common Cause, Public Campaign, Demos, the Commitee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and ReclaimDemocracy.org for joining us in this brief and give special thanks to Pat Brannan and her team of lawyers at Hogan and Harston who put in a lot of time on a pro bono basis to represent us in this case.
Some snippets follow:
The current system of unlimited expenditures has not protected the First
Amendment’s guarantee of a fair and open democratic process. Modern spending levels discourage challengers from participating in the electoral process; and the resulting elimination of competition smothers meaningful discussion of political issues. See Homans App. 322-323, 493. Because a central purpose of the First Amendment is to encourage and protect participation in the democratic process, Albuquerque’s efforts to promote speech and encourage participation through expenditure limits, thus ensuring the electorate’s First Amendment rights, must be given due weight when balanced against the individual candidate’s First Amendment interest in unlimited spending.
The Court should take this case to correct the assumption, made by the Court
below and many other courts, state legislatures, and local governments, that the
First Amendment categorically forbids any limits on the high level of campaign
spending in state and local races. With the benefit of almost 30 years of
experience since Buckley, in Albuquerque and elsewhere, this case presents an
opportunity for the Court to calibrate the important differences in the balance
of constitutional considerations affecting state and local elections and to
account for the appropriate role of federalism and the value of local electoral
participation in the scrutiny of local governments’ innovations in the pursuit