U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Overturns ‘Millionaire Amendment’

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The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a campaign finance law known as the “Millionaire’s Amendment” on a 5-4 vote, SCOTUSblog reports.

The law permits candidates to accept larger campaign contributions when self-financed opponents spend more than $350,000 of their own money. It was intended to level the playing field for congressional candidates facing wealthy opponents, CQ Politics reports.

The court ruled the campaign finance double-standard violated the First Amendment, according to McClatchy Newspapers.

Candidate Jack Davis, who lost a 2006 congressional race in New York despite spending $2.2 million of his own money, had challenged the law. He contended it unfairly burdened his First Amendment right to make unlimited expenditures of his own funds, since his spending enabled his opponent to raise more money and diminish the effectiveness of his own speech.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. agreed with Davis’ argument in his majority opinion, saying the scheme “imposes an unprecedented penalty” on a candidate who “robustly exercises” a First Amendment right to finance his or her own campaign.

Nor is the state’s interest in leveling the playing field a legitimate objective, he wrote. “The argument that a candidate’s speech may be restricted in order to ‘level electoral opportunities’ has ominous implications because it would permit Congress to arrogate the voters’ authority to evaluate the strengths of candidates competing for office,” he said.

The opinion (PDF) is Davis v. Federal Election Commission.

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