Legal Briefs

McConnell v. Federal Election Commission

By Erik S. Jaffe
December 1, 2003
Government regulation of election-related political speech has long been guided by the decision in Buckley v. Valeo. However, this decision characterizes the basic elements of representative democracy as “corrupt” and creates unprincipled exceptions to the First Amendment protection of core political speech and association. This brief by Cato and the Institute for Justice argues that Buckley should be overturned, for several reasons: Politicians’ responsiveness to those who support them is not corruption. If the public misperceives this aspect of democracy, the answer should be to have more speech to explain the Constitution, not a judicial abandonment of it. Campaign contributions are a form of expressive association and are protected by the Constitution. A return to First Amendment principles requires reversal of Buckley’s willingness to force disclosure of the identities of private citizens making expenditures for political speech.

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