Skip to comments.Supreme Court Hears Campaign Finance Case
Posted on 03/25/2003 4:40:37 PM PST by anniegetyourgun
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court seemed unsympathetic Tuesday to arguments that groups with a point of view on such subjects as gun rights or abortion should be allowed to make political donations.
Previewing an anticipated showdown over the broader new campaign finance law, the justices will decide by this summer if the 32-year-old federal donation ban is unconstitutional. They are balancing the free speech rights of people in nonprofit advocacy corporations against the government's interest in keeping political campaigns clean.
The government argues that the groups could be used to circumvent individual campaign donation limits, with little public disclosure about where money comes from. Advocacy organizations maintain that their members should be allowed to pool their money and use it to elect candidates who support their issues.
The subject of campaign finance, which dominated Congress last year, is expected to consume much of the court's time this year.
In addition to this case, which involves a North Carolina anti-abortion organization, the justices are awaiting an appeal in a challenge to the campaign finance limits that took effect last fall. Multiple groups have sued over the law, and a lower court ruling is expected anytime. The Supreme Court could schedule arguments before its summer break.
"It's a warmup. It involves the extent of constitutional protection for involvement in the political process and the role that advocacy groups play, just like McCain-Feingold," James Bopp Jr., the attorney for North Carolina Right to Life Inc., said after Tuesday's argument.
Bopp got little encouragement from the court.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told him that a 1982 ruling in a similar case makes it difficult for justices to side with his client. Several justices said that his case would be better if the ban involved campaign spending, instead of donations. The court has held that nonprofits cannot be barred from airing commercials supporting or opposing federal candidates.
In that decision, the nonprofit organization did not take corporate money. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that North Carolina Right to Life accepted some donations from companies.
Justice Antonin Scalia was dismissive of Bopp's argument that the ban hurts speech. Anyone who wants to give to a candidate can do so, he said. "All you have to do is reach in your pocket and give them a dollar."
The North Carolina case is important with the emerging influence of nonprofits because of limits in the new campaign finance law. The law prohibits national political party committees from accepting so-called soft money, or unlimited contributions from businesses and unions.
"It is this type of organization that's going to be the key player in elections and financing campaigns," said Elizabeth Garrett, a law professor at the University of Chicago who has been studying campaign spending. "We as voters might want to know what they're doing and who they're supporting."
Currently, only individuals, political parties, political action committees and other campaigns can contribute to federal candidates and national party committees. Federal law prohibits donations from corporations, including advocacy groups organized as nonprofit corporations.
Bush administration lawyer Paul Clement said interest groups can form political action committees to make donations. Groups do not want to do that, however, because they would have to make their records public.
O'Connor asked Clement about the larger, pending campaign finance case. He said the court could deal with both because the issues raised in this case were "miraculously unaffected by the many reforms" approved by Congress.
The Supreme Court has been willing to uphold limits on contributions. In 2001, it ruled that political parties could not spend unlimited amounts of money if they coordinated their efforts with a candidate. And in 2000, the court voted to back Missouri's contribution limits to state campaigns.
The case is Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont, 02-403.
If this law ends up getting upheld by the Sumpreme Court it could very well result in the Democrats recliming the White House as well as control of both houses of Congress.
It could also mean that enormously harmful legislation could go through Congress in the time period before election time since we would legally not be able to address these matters.
The Democrats have made it know that it is Christians and conservatives they consider to be terrorists, not Saddam and Osama and their kind.
Their desire is to see this nation become a third world dictatorship run by someone like Saddam or Mugabe and to see their political opponents punished the same way these dictators did to theirs.
I fear for what's going to happen in this country if CFR is upheld by the Supreme Court. It is not a very pretty picture.
With most politicians I don't want to reach in my pocket and "give them a dollar", as Scalia huffily suggests. I would much rather have my chosen organization which agrees with my views and makes sure the politicians know my views does it. As a single donor, I have little say or voice. I am simply a tiny cog in the money machine.
I also don't buy the silly argument a 1982 Court decision is inviolate in ruling and must be adhered to forever, especially if it contradicts the Constitution.
Does the Court plan to hold Liberal labor unions and the multitutinous tax-exempt Liberal foundations to the same non-participatory standard? I doubt it!