The Supreme Court's equation of campaign donations with political speech in Buckley v. Valeo helped unleash a flood of "independent expenditures" and other forms of campaign spending beyond what anyone anticipated when that decision was issued 27 years ago.
Based on their votes in recent cases, the justices now fall into roughly three camps. Three justices — Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens — have indicated sympathy with greater federal regulation of money in politics and are probably favorably disposed to at least some version of the soft money limits in the new law.
Three other justices — Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy — have taken the view that Buckley v. Valeo permitted too much, not too little, federal regulation and they may agree with Judge Henderson's dissenting view in the new case that essentially all the regulations violate the First Amendment.
The three remaining justices, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor and David H. Souter, have appeared relatively content with the current framework.
And the separate opinions produced by the panel today offered support for any and all approaches. "It looks like the three opinions speak to the three positions on the court itself," Richard L. Hasen, an election law specialist at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said today. "I think the justices can find confirmation of what they already believe by reading the opinion closest to their own preference."
Of course, that begs the question of who will be sitting on the Supreme Court when McConnell v. Federal Election Commission is decided, assuming the court plans to wait until its next term. If there is a vacancy on the court this summer, the court's center of gravity on campaign finance could well be at stake, and the list of issues that would polarize a confirmation battle would grow even longer.
Saturday, May 03, 2003
Linda Greenhouse of the NY Times describes the breakdown on the current Supreme Court on campaign finance reform. Watch out, we're in for a bumpy ride.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 8:13 AM