“A Note on Campaign Finance Reform: Limiting the Right to Make Campaign Finance Contributions without Violating the First Amendment”

William Grigsby, Emeritus Professor in City and Regional Planning, University of Pennsylvania, has written this draft, which I have posted on my blog.  Here is the abstract:

The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has made it possible for individuals who are not eligible to vote in a particular federal election and for organizations, who have no voting rights at all, to make unlimited campaign contributions, expanding their pre-existing right to make contributions with dollar caps.  These two groups of contributors without the right to vote already outspend eligible voters in some states by an order of magnitude.  Citizens United will simply widen the difference.  The dominant role of campaign contributors who are not eligible voters has a serious corrupting effect on the federal election system.  Since candidates and office-holders properly listen to the views of all contributors, not just to the views of eligible voters, the ballot speech of the eligibles is substantially diluted, if not entirely overwhelmed, by the money-speech of the non-eligibles.  This is true even with respect to donors to independent-expenditure campaigns, since their identity will almost immediately become known to candidates through disclosure requirements.  Additionally, their uncapped donations would in some cases be so large as to invite at least the appearance of quid pro quo corruption.

Extending the right to make contributions in a particular election to groups that do not have the right to vote in that election also violates simple logic, since without the right of people to vote there would be no need for contributions

Eligibility limits with respect to contributions speech should be co-terminus with those for voting speech.  Since individuals join together in organizations in order to make their voice more widely and strongly heard, organizations should still be allowed to make campaign contributions but only as conduits for donations by persons who are eligible voters in the election whose outcome the organizations are attempting to influence.

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