The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down aggregate campaign spending limits in federal elections prompts a brief response from National Review.
The Supreme Court struck down a campaign-finance regulation in April: the aggregate limit on the amount individuals may donate to candidates for federal office. The Court has held that campaign-finance regulation is compatible with the First Amendment if it prevents corruption or its appearance. But it reasoned that if contributing the maximum allowed to an individual candidate could not corrupt him, contributing that maximum to many candidates could not corrupt all of them. The aggregate limit simply made no sense except as an expression of animus against money in politics, which is what pays for political speech. Justice Breyer, in dissent, accused the conservative justices of insufficient realism about the corrupting effects of donations. Breyer also warned of the “grave problems of democratic legitimacy” that would develop if incumbent politicians were not allowed more leeway in regulating political contributions. Which seems much the less realistic point of view.