In Buckley v. Valeo 1976 the Court was asked to determine the constitutionality of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (Act), as amended in 1974,which: (a) limits political contributions to candidates for federal elective office by an individual or a group to $1,000 and by a political committee to $5,000 to any single candidate per election, with an over-all annual limitation of $25,000 by an individual contributor; (b) limits expenditures by individuals or groups “relative to a clearly identified candidate” to $1,000 per candidate per election…; (c) requires political committees to keep detailed records of contributions and expenditures, including the name and address of each individual contributing in excess of $10, and his occupation and principal place of business if his contribution exceeds $100, and to file quarterly reports…; and (d) creates the eight-member Commission as the administering agency with record keeping, disclosure, and investigatory functions and extensive rulemaking, adjudicatory, and enforcement powers,… Subtitle H of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (IRC), as amended in 1974, provides for public financing of Presidential nominating conventions and general election and primary campaigns from general revenues and allocates such funding to conventions and general election campaigns by establishing three categories:…
In Buckley v.Valeo a key question the Court asked itself was whether the proposed contribution limits were so low as to impede the ability of candidates to “amass the resources necessary for effective advocacy.”
The Court decided that the contribution limits, disclosure and record keeping provision under the FECA of 1971 were constitutional. The expenditure limitations, however, violated the First Amendment rights of protected political expression.
The Supreme Court’s 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision to have granted political campaign money a right equivalent to freedom of speech. Some holdings from that case:
. The Act’s contribution provisions are constitutional, but the expenditure provisions violate the First Amendment. Pp. 12-59 .
(a) The contribution provisions, along with those covering disclosure, are appropriate legislative weapons against the reality or appearance of improper influence stemming from the dependence of candidates on large campaign contributions, and the ceilings imposed accordingly serve the basic governmental interest in safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process without directly impinging upon the rights of individual citizens and candidates to engage in political debate and discussion. Pp. 23-38 .
(b) The First Amendment requires the invalidation of the Act’s independent expenditure ceiling, its limitation on a candidate’s expenditures from his own personal funds, and its ceilings on over-all campaign expenditures, since those provisions place substantial and direct restrictions on the ability of candidates, citizens, and associations to engage in protected political expression, restrictions that the First Amendment cannot tolerate. Pp. 39-59 .
For a syllabus, full version or edited decision of Buckley v. Valeo go to: