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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Supreme Court Hears Vermont Spending Limits Case

As Andrew Miga reports for the AP in the Washington Post, today the U.S. Supreme Court heard an appeal against a Second Circuit ruling that upheld a Vermont campaign finance law which limited contributions to a level affordable by most Americans and which limited campaign spending.

The case, Randall v. Sorrell, offers the Court a chance to reconsider its contorted 1976 ruling Buckley v. Valeo, which did a real number on democracy in the U.S. by 1) equating campaign money directly with speech and 2) instituting a confusing paradigm in which limiting the size of campaign contributions was constitutional, but limiting a candidate's spending or personal contributions to their own campaign was unconstitutional.

Most observers feel the Court was largely skeptical of the Vermont law, although it is often difficult to discern from oral arguments whether a justice is expressing doubt or is playing devil's advocate to shore up their own position. The case was the first campaign finance case heard by Justice Alito and only the second heard by Chief Justice Roberts, which adds another element of uncertainty to the mix.

If the Court refuses to defer to the state of Vermont, a refusal which would highlight the hypocrisy behind more than one justice's espoused notions of judicial restraint in the face of legislation undertaken by the several states, it may be incumbent upon those citizens of the United States who feel that money has gained dominion over our political process to pursue a constitutional amendment which makes it clear to rich man and Justice alike that our government is meant to be of the people, by the people, and for the people.

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