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Supreme Court Strikes Down Millionaire's Amendment

by on June 26, 2008

And I’m sure this makes Jon Powers and his supporters upset:

Millionaire congressional candidates like Jack Davis cannot be treated differently under campaign finance laws than less wealthy candidates, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning.

Deciding Davis’ challenge to the so-called “Millionaire’s Amendment,” which loosens fundraising restrictions on candidates facing off against self-funded opponents, the high court agreed with Davis that the amendment infringes on the First Amendment rights of wealthy candidates.

“The unprecedented step of imposing different contribution and coordinated party expenditure limits on candidates vying for the same seat is antithetical to the First Amendment,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s majority opinion.

The justices voted 5-4 on the issue of the constitutionality of the Millionaire’s Amendment, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas joining in the opinion.

Other justices concurred with the majority’s opinion that Davis had standing to bring the case, but argued in dissents that the Millionaire’s Amendment is constitutional.

“The Millionaire’s Amendment represents a modest, sensible and plainly constitutional attempt by Congress to minimize the advantages enjoyed by wealthy candidates vis-a-vis those who must rely on the support of others to fund their pursuit of public office,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in a dissent that was joined by Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

The amendment allows the opponents of candidates who contribute more than $350,000 of their own money to their campaigns to raise $6,900 — three times the typical limit — from individual donors.

UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this, I got another solicitation from the Powers campaign:

Dear Matt,

Today the Supreme Court struck down the ‘millionaire’s amendment’ which was intended to prevent  millionaires from buying their own seats in Congress.

Jon’s opponent has said he will pay $3 Million to run against Jon. With the Court ruling today in favor of millionaires, there is nothing stopping our opponent from writing his own check now. Jon’s opponent also released his financial disclosure form which revealed he owns up to $35 million in Big Oil and energy stocks. This is just more of the same. Our opponent is running to represent Big Oil, not the people of the 26th district.

Of course, the plea for money is misleading. Davis has pledged to use $3 million of his own money for the congressional race… not $3 million specifically to oppose Powers.

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From → Campaign 2008, NY-26

2 Comments
  1. The thing I don’t get about this … is why if a candidate funds his own campaign is it freedom of speech, but my freedom of speech ends at $2,300? I agree with the ruling that candidates should be able to spend as much of their own money as they want … but if money is speech, we’re being stifled, aren’t we?

  2. I agree. Limits on contributions is, in my opinion, the stifling of free speech. It’s too bad that those limits were given the green light by the Supreme Court already, because those limits only resulted in the big rise of 527s.

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