29 June 2009

Are Federal Corporate Spending Limits Dead?

The nation's foremost election law blogger opines at Slate that the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to declare the McCain-Feingold bill limitations on corporate and labor union spending in federal elections unconstitutional on its face, a decision that could also impact Colorado's campaign finance laws.

The U.S. Supreme Court had been scheduled to release a narrow statutory opinion concerning the release of an anti-Hillary Clinton movie made with corporate financing released on the eve of primary season, but asked to have the case re-argued this September (before oral arguments normally start after the summer recess) with full argument of broader constitutional issues presented.

Justice Kennedy, the most common swing vote on the court, issued a dissenting opinion in the case holding that corporate campaign contribution limits are constitutional (Austin) that the parties in the current case are being asked to argue for and against overturning in their re-argument. Votes in other recent campaign finance cases suggest that Kennedy's position now has the votes on the court to turn his dissent in Austin into a binding U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

The reasoning in the case will also likely impact parallel campaign finance rules at the state level in states that have them, including Colorado. Colorado Amendment 27, adopted by the state's voters in 2002, banned corporate and union contributions in the state and reduced the amount that political action committees (PACs) can contribute (recent implementing legislation closed the "LLC loophole" in Amendment 27 as then applied). Colorado Amendment 54, adopted by the states votes in 2008 and currently put on hold by a Denver judge's preliminary injunction also imposes campaign contribution limits, although those limitations were in question constitutionally in the current state of First Amendment jurisprudence.

Colorado Amendment 41, which bans gifts for the personal benefit of public officials in certain circumstances (interpreted to apply mostly in situations that also legally constitute bribes) will probably not be impacted by this U.S. Supreme Court decision, if it is resolved as expected.


Michael Malak said...

Only the landed gentry have a vote in this country.

Billll said...

McCain-Feingold is the political speech equivalent to the tax laws in this country, punishing success.

All speech is protected, but some speech is more protected that others.

Michael Malak said...

Just like the "successful" banks lobbied Congress for bailouts, against the overwhelming protests of the rest of the voting public, who no longer has any say in Congress. But it seems that you prefer one-dollar-one-vote.