Buckley v. Valeo

Buckley v. Valeo

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Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 upheld a federal law which set limits on campaign contributions, but ruled that spending money to influence elections is a form of constitutionally protected free speech, and struck down portions of the law. The court also ruled candidates can give unlimited amounts of money to their own campaigns.

Facts


In 1974, over the veto
Veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

 of President Gerald R. Ford, the Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 passed significant amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act
Federal Election Campaign Act
The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 is a United States federal law which increased disclosure of contributions for federal campaigns. It was amended in 1974 to place legal limits on the campaign contributions...

 of 1971, creating the first comprehensive effort by the federal government to regulate campaign contribution
Contribution
Contribute may refer to:*Adobe Contribute Web editing softwareContribution may refer to:*Donation*Sharing*Payment*Contribution : a payment between defendants with joint and several liability to apportion liability....

s and spending. The key parts of the amended law did the following
  • limited contributions to candidates for federal office (2 USC
    United States Code
    The Code of Laws of the United States of America is a compilation and codification of the general and permanent federal laws of the United States...

     §441a)
  • required the disclosure of political contributions (2 USC §434),
  • provided for the public financing of presidential election
    Presidential election
    A presidential election is the election of any head of state whose official title is president.- United States :The United States has elections on the state and local levels...

    s (IRC Subtitle H),
  • limited expenditures by candidates and associated committees,
  • except for presidential candidates who accepted public funding (formerly 18 U.S.C. §608(c) (1)(C-F)),
  • limited independent expenditures to $1000 (formerly 18 U.S.C. §608e),
  • limited candidate expenditures from personal funds (formerly 18 U.S.C. §608a),
  • created and fixed the method of appointing members to the Federal Election Commission
    Federal Election Commission
    The Federal Election Commission is an independent regulatory agency that was founded in 1975 by the United States Congress to regulate the campaign finance legislation in the United States. It was created in a provision of the 1975 amendment to the Federal Election Campaign Act...

     (FEC) (formerly 2 U.S.C. §437c(a) (1)(A-C)).


A lawsuit
Lawsuit
A lawsuit or "suit in law" is a civil action brought in a court of law in which a plaintiff, a party who claims to have incurred loss as a result of a defendant's actions, demands a legal or equitable remedy. The defendant is required to respond to the plaintiff's complaint...

 was filed in the District Court for the D.C.
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia is a federal district court. Appeals from the District are taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit The United States District Court for the District of Columbia (in case citations, D.D.C.) is a...

, on January 2, 1975, by Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 James L. Buckley
James L. Buckley
James Lane Buckley is a retired judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and previously served as a United States Senator from the state of New York as a member of the Conservative Party of New York from January 3, 1971 to January 3, 1977...

 of New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, former Senator, 1968 presidential candidate
United States presidential election, 1968
The United States presidential election of 1968 was the 46th quadrennial United States presidential election. Coming four years after Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson won in a historic landslide, it saw Johnson forced out of the race and Republican Richard Nixon elected...

 Eugene McCarthy
Eugene McCarthy
Eugene Joseph "Gene" McCarthy was an American politician, poet, and a long-time member of the United States Congress from Minnesota. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1949 to 1959 and the U.S. Senate from 1959 to 1971.In the 1968 presidential election, McCarthy was the first...

 of Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

, and others. The suit was filed against Francis R. Valeo
Francis R. Valeo
Francis Ralph Valeo was the Secretary of the United States Senate and ex officio member of the Federal Election Commission. He was the defendant/appellee for the Federal government of the United States in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S...

, the Secretary of the Senate and ex officio member of the FEC who represented the U.S. federal government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

. The court denied plaintiff
Plaintiff
A plaintiff , also known as a claimant or complainant, is the term used in some jurisdictions for the party who initiates a lawsuit before a court...

s' request for declaratory
Declaratory judgment
A declaratory judgment is a judgment of a court in a civil case which declares the rights, duties, or obligations of one or more parties in a dispute. A declaratory judgment is legally binding, but it does not order any action by a party. In this way, the declaratory judgment is like an action to...

 and injunctive
Injunction
An injunction is an equitable remedy in the form of a court order that requires a party to do or refrain from doing certain acts. A party that fails to comply with an injunction faces criminal or civil penalties and may have to pay damages or accept sanctions...

 relief. Plaintiffs then appealed to the Court of Appeals
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit known informally as the D.C. Circuit, is the federal appellate court for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Appeals from the D.C. Circuit, as with all the U.S. Courts of Appeals, are heard on a...

.

The petitioner
Petitioner
A petitioner is a person who pleads with governmental institution for a legal remedy or a redress of grievances, through use of a petition.-In the courts:The petitioner may seek a legal remedy if the state or another private person has acted unlawfully...

s sought for the district court
United States district court
The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in the district court, which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States bankruptcy court associated with each United States...

 to overturn the key provisions outlined above. They argued that the legislation was in violation of the 1st
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering...

 and 5th Amendment
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, protects against abuse of government authority in a legal procedure. Its guarantees stem from English common law which traces back to the Magna Carta in 1215...

 rights to freedom of expression and due process
Due process
Due process is the legal code that the state must venerate all of the legal rights that are owed to a person under the principle. Due process balances the power of the state law of the land and thus protects individual persons from it...

, respectively.

Decision


In a lengthy per curiam decision issued on January 30, 1976, the Court sustained the Act's limits on individual contributions, as well as the disclosure and reporting provisions and the public financing scheme. However, the limitations on campaign expenditures, on independent expenditures by individuals and groups, and on expenditures by a candidate from personal funds were struck down.

The Court also held that the method for appointments to the Federal Election Commission
Federal Election Commission
The Federal Election Commission is an independent regulatory agency that was founded in 1975 by the United States Congress to regulate the campaign finance legislation in the United States. It was created in a provision of the 1975 amendment to the Federal Election Campaign Act...

 was an unconstitutional violation of Separation of Powers
Separation of powers
The separation of powers, often imprecisely used interchangeably with the trias politica principle, is a model for the governance of a state. The model was first developed in ancient Greece and came into widespread use by the Roman Republic as part of the unmodified Constitution of the Roman Republic...

. The scheme by which the eight members of the commission were chosen was that the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives were ex officio members of the Commission without a right to vote, two members would be appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate upon recommendations of the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, two would be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives upon recommendations of the majority and minority leaders of the House, and two would be appointed by the President. The six voting members would then need to be confirmed by the majority of both Houses of Congress. In addition there was a requirement that each of the three appointing authorities was forbidden to choose both of their appointees from the same political party. The Supreme Court opined that these powers could properly be exercised by an "Officer of the United States" (validly appointed under Article II, Section 2, clause 2 of the Constitution) but held that the Commissioners could not exercise this significant authority because they were not "appointed". Id. at 137.

Criticism


Although the decision upheld restrictions on the size of campaign contributions, because it struck down limits on expenditures some argue that this precedent allows those with great wealth to effectively drown out the speech of average citizens. Among those criticizing the decision on this line was philosopher John Rawls
John Rawls
John Bordley Rawls was an American philosopher and a leading figure in moral and political philosophy. He held the James Bryant Conant University Professorship at Harvard University....

, who wrote that the Court's decision "runs the risk of endorsing the view that fair representation is representation according to the amount of influence effectively exerted."

On a somewhat different note, Justice Byron White
Byron White
Byron Raymond "Whizzer" White won fame both as a football halfback and as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Appointed to the court by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, he served until his retirement in 1993...

, in dissent, argued the entire law should have been upheld, in deference to Congress's greater knowledge and expertise on the issue.

From the other side, some disagree vigorously with Buckley on the grounds that it sustained some limits on campaign contributions which, they argue, are protected by the First Amendment
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering...

 as free speech. This position was advanced by Chief Justice
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

 Warren Burger in his dissent
Dissent
Dissent is a sentiment or philosophy of non-agreement or opposition to a prevailing idea or an entity...

, who claimed that individual contributions and expenditures are protected speech acts. Justices Clarence Thomas
Clarence Thomas
Clarence Thomas is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Succeeding Thurgood Marshall, Thomas is the second African American to serve on the Court....

 and Antonin Scalia
Antonin Scalia
Antonin Gregory Scalia is an American jurist who serves as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. As the longest-serving justice on the Court, Scalia is the Senior Associate Justice...

, who were not on the Court at the time of Buckley, have argued for overturning Buckley on these grounds, but their position has not been adopted by the court. Despite criticism of Buckley from both sides, the case remains the starting point for judicial analysis of the constitutionality of campaign finance restrictions. See e.g. McConnell v. FEC, upholding the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act
Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act
The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 is a United States federal law that amended the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which regulates the financing of political campaigns. Its chief sponsors were Senators Russell Feingold and John McCain...

 of 2002 ("McCain-Feingold Bill"). This legislation included a prohibition on soft money as well as limits on independent expenditures by private groups.

In 2008, the Court further restricted attempts to minimize the effects of private money on races for the U.S. House and Senate when it struck down the "Millionaires Amendment" in the case of FEC v Davis (originally Davis v. FEC
Davis v. Federal Election Commission
Davis v. Federal Election Commission, 554 U.S. 724 , is a decision by the United States Supreme Court, which held that Sections 319 and of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 unconstitutionally infringed on a candidate's First Amendment rights.-Background:Section 319 of the Bipartisan...

). In 2010, the Court overturned Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) and part of McConnell v. FEC in Citizen's United v FEC. In Citizens United, the Court reinterpreted Buckley as providing more expansive First Amendment protections for independent expenditures made on a candidate's behalf. In 2011, the Court further restricted methods of campaign finance restrictions, based on a reinterpretation of Buckley and Davis in Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett, striking down a public financing system put in place 13 years earlier in response to Arizona's widespread campaign corruption scandals.

See also

  • List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 424
  • Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
    Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
    Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, , was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court holding that the First Amendment prohibits government from censoring political broadcasts in candidate elections when those broadcasts are funded by corporations or unions...

    (2010)
  • Eight Magic Words
    Eight Magic Words
    The Eight Magic Words cannot be used in issue advertisements in the United States. The Eight Magic Words are banned from use to reduce political slander from directly influencing voting, and to reduce the direct involvement in campaigns by political parties and other independent groups.The eight...


External links