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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Vermont Spending Limits Appealed to US Supreme Court

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Vermont's campaign finance law today asked the Supreme Court to hear their appeal of last year's decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upholding Vermont's mandatory spending limits for state candidates. Plaintiffs are also appealing the upholding of Vermont's reasonable contribution limits of $200 for legislative candidates and $400 for statewide candidates.

This could be a very, very big deal.

Last year, the Supreme Court declined to hear the City of Albuquerque's appeal of a Tenth Circuit decision which held that city's mandatory spending limits unconstitutional. Conflicting precedents between various appellate circuits often increases the chances that the Supreme Court will address a given issue.

Should the Supreme Court agree to hear the case, it will provide the court with an opportunity to redeem its ill-reasoned 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo, an increasingly obsolete ruling which held the right of the rich to spend unlimited sums to influence the American political process in higher constitutional regard than the right of the rest of us to choose a representative government.

Buckley's strange reasoning has often led reformers to make strained portrayals of the problems of money in politics rather than just simply say what we all know to be true: that a very small and very wealthy fraction of American society holds captive the process by which we elect our government and pass the laws under which we live.

Why is it that stronger reporting rules were not in place to prevent an Enron? Buckley.
Why is it that pharmaceutical companies were given a windfall worth billions by the federal government? Buckley.
Why were safeguards removed that protected investors from self-dealing financial institutions? Buckley.
Why is it that elections are now about who has the most money, and not who has the best ideas or leadership skills? Buckley.

Buckley. Nine guys in fancy bathrobes who played a huge role in screwing up democracy in America.

Working to make sure the Supremes get it right this time is the National Voting Rights Institute, which also served as counsel in the Albuquerque case, who will continue to represent intervening defendant the Vermont Public Interest Research Group in the case. TheRestofUs.org will organize and lead an amicus brief of reform groups in support of Vermont's efforts to protect its democracy for its citizens, as we did in the Albuquerque case.

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