Buckley v. Valeo, Secretary of The United States Senate, No. 75-436. Supreme Court of The United States 24 U.S. 1; 96 S. Ct. 612; 1976, January 30, 1976 a1 Together with No. 75-437, Buckley et al. v. Valeo, Secretary of the United States Senate, et al., on appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
CORE TERMS: candidate, election, expenditure, campaign, disclosure, First Amendment, appointment, presidential, ceiling, financing, funding, convention, major-party, contributor, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, spending, incumbent, corruption, appoint, calendar, voter, appointed, defeat, nomination, challengers, volunteer, ballot, regulation, advocacy, minor-party
An action against the Federal Election Commission and various government officials which challenged the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (generally 2 USCS 431 et seq., 18 USCS 591 et seq.) and the provisions of Subtitle H of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (26 USCS 9001 et seq.) for public financing of Presidential election campaigns.
The theory behind the action relied primarily on violations of the First Amendment speech and association rights and Fifth Amendment equal protection principles. The statutes served to
1. limit political contributions by individuals or groups to any single candidate for a federal elective office to $1,000 (18 USCS 608(b)(1)), limit contributions to any such candidate by political committees to $5,000 (18 USCS 608(b)(2)), and impose a $25,000 annual limitation on total contributions by any contributor (18 USCS 608(b)(3));
2. limit independent expenditures by an individual or group advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for federal office to $1,000 per year (18 USCS 608(e)(1)), set limits, depending on the office involved, on expenditures by a candidate for federal office during any calendar year (18 USCS 608(a)(1)), and establish limits, depending on the office involved, on overall campaign expenditures by candidates (18 USCS 608(c));
3. require political committees to report to the Federal Election Commission the names of persons contributing more than $10, with the names of those contributing more than $100 in a calendar year being subject to public inspection (2 USCS 431 et seq.), and require every person or group (other than a political committee or candidate) who makes independent political contributions or expenditures exceeding $100 in a calendar year, other than by contribution to a political committee or candidate, to file a statement with the Commission (2 USCS 434(e)); and
4. provide for the public financing from general revenues of Presidential nominating conventions, general election campaigns, and primary campaigns, with the principal portion of public funds being allocated to "major" political parties (parties receiving 25% or more of the vote in the most recent Presidential election) and their candidates (26 USCS 9001 et seq.).
In a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court held
1. Five members of the court expressed the view that the provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act which impose ceilings on political contributions did not violate First Amendment speech and association rights or invidiously discriminate against nonincumbent candidates and minority party candidates. This majority concluded that these provisions were supported by substantial governmental interests in limiting corruption and the appearance of corruption;
2. Seven members of the court viewed Act's provisions which limited independent political expenditures by individuals and groups, and fixing ceilings on overall campaign expenditures by candidates, as unconstitutional and impermissibly burdening the right of free expression under the First Amendment. The seven members opined that these provisions cannot be sustained on the basis of governmental interests in preventing the actuality or appearance of corruption or in equalizing the resources of candidates;
3. Six members of the court expressed the view that the Act's provisions limiting the amount of personal expenditures by a candidate were similarly unconstitutional under the First Amendment;
4. Six members of the court expressed the view that the Act's reporting and disclosure provisions were not unconstitutional for vagueness or overbreadth in violation of First Amendment speech and association rights;
5. Seven members of the court, that the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code for public financing of Presidential nominating conventions and primary election campaigns were not unconstitutional as being contrary to the general welfare clause of the Constitution (Art I, 8, cl 1), as violating the First Amendment, or as invidiously discriminating against minority parties or their candidates or candidates not running in party primaries;
6. expressing the view of seven members of the court, that the principle of separation of powers contained in the appointments clause was violated by the method of appointment of the members of the Federal Election Commission insofar as the Commission performed rulemaking, adjudicatory, and enforcement powers under the statutes, although the Commission, as presently constituted, could properly exercise investigative powers; and
Burger, Ch. J., concurred as to holdings (2) and (3) above. However, he dissented as to the other holdings. Burger expressed the view that
1. the statutory provisions that regulated reporting and required disclosure of contributions and expenditures were impermissibly broad and violated the First Amendment;
2. contribution limitations mandated by the statute infringed on First Amendment liberties, and
3. the statutory system for public financing of Presidential campaigns was an impermissible intrusion by the government into the traditionally private political process.
White, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part, joined in the court's opinion as to holding (5)above. He expressed the view that
1. The expenditure limitations provisions should also be upheld as not violating the First Amendment, and
2. The Federal Election Commission was illegally constituted because its members had not been selected in the manner required by the appointments clause.
Marshall, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part, joined in all of the court's opinion except as to holding (3) above. He expressed the view that:
The statutory provision limiting the amount of personal expenditures by candidates should not be held to be a violation of First Amendment rights. Justice Marshall opined that these provisions were justified, especially when considered in conjunction with the remainder of the Federal Election Campaign Act as it has the effect of reducing the natural advantage of the wealthy candidate and promoting the reality and appearance of equal access to the political arena by all potential candidates.
Rehnquist, J., concurred in part and dissented in part, agreeing with all of the court's holdings except holding (6) above. He expressed the view that the statutory provision for public financing of Presidential election campaign expenses discriminated in favor of the two major political parties, and against minor parties and independents, in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments.
Stevens, J., did not participate.
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