The Public Interest

The limits of campaign spending limits

Stanley C. Brubaker

Fall 1998

POLITICAL indignation engenders constitutional excess. Such was the case in 1974 when Congress, hot with anger over Watergate, delivered a beating to First Amendment rights with a set of new provisions to the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). The original 1971 act had already set limits on how much of his own money a federal candidate could spend on his own campaign. The new provisions limited how much that campaign as a whole could spend as well as how much any individual or organization working independently to promote a candidate could spend. But, in the 1976 case of Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court declared each of these limits on campaign spending unconstitutional. 

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