Campaign Finance Debate
It is without
a doubt true that the courts are becoming the ultimate arbiters
of many issues affecting our political process. This certainly was
true in our most recent presidential election when the United States
Supreme Court was called upon to decide issues ultimately impacting
the presidential election. It is true as well that the judicial
branch is taking a more active role in shaping campaign finance
Last week the
United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a major case
involving campaign finance reform. Federal Election Commission v.
Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee, No. 00-91, is the
sequel to a 1996 Supreme Court decision wherein the Court held that
political parties, like individuals, have a First Amendment right
to engage in independent expenditures. In the earlier decision,
the Court remanded the issue argued last week as to whether a limit
on coordinated party spending also violates the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court took the case after the 10th Circuit
declared such limits to be unconstitutional. The saga continues
in a case that started over 14 years ago as an administrative proceeding.
Federal Campaign Committee is the most current campaign finance
litigation involving a political party. This case tests the Supreme
Court's tolerance of political parties and presents for the Court
an opportunity to expand its holding in the seminal "money
is highly protected speech" case of Buckley v. Valeo.
to be seen is what kind of impact the Supreme Court's decision in
Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee will have upon recent
legislative efforts to enact campaign finance reform. Up for debate
is whether coordinated party spending increases the danger of actual
political corruption or the appearance of such.
to Legal Archive 2001