The Supreme Court has struck down a Vermont campaign finance law:
Vermont's law, approved in 1997, was the toughest in the country with regard to setting limits on the amount individuals and parties may contribute to campaigns and, perhaps more significantly, on how much candidates may spend on their campaigns.
The measure was enacted as a direct challenge to Buckley v. Valeo , the 30-year-old Supreme Court ruling that has generally been read to permit limits on campaign contributions, for the purpose of stopping corruption or apparent corruption -- and to bar limits on candidates' spending as a violation of free speech.
I oppose all government restrictions on campaign spending and campaign contributions. So you might think I would applaud the Court's decision in this case. I am disappointed, however, for two reasons.
The Court's decision is timid and half-baked. It struck down the particular limits set by the Vermont law as being too low. But the decision accepts rather than reverses the fundamentally wrong-headed framework established in Buckley v. Valeo. According to that 1974 decision, limits on spending violate free speech but limits on contributions do not. This reasoning has always been non-sensical, and the only coherent view is that all limits are inconsistent with the First Amendment.
The other issue is that the law in question applied to state rather than federal elections. And I believe federalism is the right approach to policy. So if Vermont wants to adopt a loony campaign finance law, I think that should be an issue for Vermont but not the federal constitution.