Wealthy candidates who self-financed were faced with opposition candidates who could spend higher amounts than allowed for other candidates for Federal Office, according to a provision in McCain-Feingold bill. The self-financed candidates also faced stricter reporting rules in an effort to “level the playing field” against wealthy candidates. In a 5-4 decision (this appears to be the new voting pattern for the Justices), the Supreme Court struck down the measure as being unconstitutional. Davis v. Federal Election Committee. Justice Alito wrote for the majority. The 5-4 decision was not as clear-cut as usual, as part of the decision was unanimous, and part was subject to the 5-4 majority.

The case was brought by Jack Davis, a wealthy Upstate NY businessman who was the Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives from New York’s 26th Congressional District. He ran in 2004 and 2006 and lost both elections to the incumbent, Tom Reynolds, who is not running this year. In his brief, Davis discloses having spent $1.2 million, principally his own funds, on his 2004 campaign. He is running again for the same seat (he is tenacious, if nothing else). Davis spent $1.2 Million in 2004, and $2.3 Million in 2006, mostly his own money to run for the seat. The problem was, as the Supreme Court saw it, was that the ability of opponents to spend 3 times the Federal limits toward self-financed campaigns was contrary to the 1st Amendment of the Consitution as interfering with free speech.

Many election campaign laws interfere with free speech in my opinion. In Maryland, we have a lilmit on the amout given to a particualr candidate ($4000) and a total amount to all candidates total in an eleciton cycle ($10,000). The scenario could be that you supported a candidate for a primary that lost, and then wanted to attend a fundraiser for the winner. Problem is, you are at your limit – no more fundraisers or donations for you! You are now out of not only the fundraising game, but also your access to the candidate just dried up too. It also limits support for new challengers, as donors are unwilling to spend their money on probably losers. Therefore, the finance laws supprt the incumbants – legislated job security. However, the Supreme Court as of yet, has been relucant to take on state election laws.

Since this post has more to do with election laws and politics than the law, I posted it here, and not on our sister RightJuris site. I’m sure McCain will get some questions about this.

ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA, KENNEDY, and THOMAS, JJ., joined, and in which STEVENS, SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined as to Part II. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined as to Part II. GINSBURG, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which BREYER, J., joined.