Tuesday, April 05, 2005
As Sarah Craig of the Associated Press reports in the Missoulian, A federal judge in Montana recently upheld the $100 spending limit for candidates in student government elections at the University of Montana. Other universities (Colorado State University, Louisiana State University (page 8, Article V), and the University of Alabama to name a few) have instituted limits to ensure that wealthy students can't dominate student government by outspending their opponents.
Spending limits for candidates, first instituted by Congress in the wake of the Watergate scandal, were struck down soon after in the notoriously ill-considered Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo (1976). Since then, as the ability of wealthy interests to dominate elections in America has become increasingly apparent, the courts have begun to reconsider the wisdom of the constitutional analysis of Buckley, much as they did after anti-American decisions which upheld the poll tax and separate-but-equal education.
With his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Malloy reaffirmed that the First Amendment does not grant the unfettered right to spend money to influence elections.
The National Voting Rights Institute, which served as co-counsel for the University of Montana's defense of the spending limit, is also busy working to help the state of Vermont defend its spending limits to the Supreme Court. Vermont's ability to use spending limits to curb the problems of money in politics was upheld last year by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The attorney opposing Vermont has indicated that he will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
We here at TheRestofUs.org will do our part in the NVRI/Vermont effort by organizing citizen groups to sign on to an amicus brief in support of Vermont's spending limits. Check out our Buck Buckley page for more info on a similar case out of Albuquerque. That case, which parroted the Supreme Court's 1976 Buckley analysis, was not accepted by the Supreme Court. Landell v. Sorrell likely has a better odds of being heard by the Supreme Court due to its divergence from Buckley.