« Redistricting is a hot topic in mid-decade | Main | Wisconsin: US Supreme Court to hear challenge to state campaign finance law »

Vermont: US Supreme Court to review two campaign finance cases

The New York Times reports: The Supreme Court opened a new chapter in the long-running debate over the role of money in politics on Tuesday by agreeing to decide whether Vermont's strict limits on campaign spending and contributions are constitutional.

The court's action suggested, although it did not guarantee, that the justices might be ready to revisit their 29-year-old precedent, Buckley v. Valeo, which in equating money with speech has been widely interpreted as ruling out any restrictions on expenditures by candidates.

Vermont is the only state to have placed limits on candidates' spending. Its contribution limits, $400 to candidates for statewide office during a two-year election cycle and lower for other offices, are the tightest in the country. ...

A second new campaign finance case that the justices accepted on Tuesday challenges the application of another section of that law, asking the court to establish as exception for "grass-roots lobbying" to the ban on corporate funding of certain advertisements in the weeks before election day.

The Vermont law was enacted in 1997 as a direct challenge to the Supreme Court's campaign finance precedents, or as Vermont's secretary of state, Deborah L. Markowitz, put it in an official memorandum, with the "express legislative goal of giving the Supreme Court an opportunity to re-evaluate its decision in Buckley v. Valeo."

While the law's strict contribution limits were notable, its main departure was in restricting campaign expenditures. Candidates for governor, for example, are limited to spending $300,000 in a two-year election cycle, regardless of whether the cycle includes a primary election. -- Justices Take On Spending Limits for Candidates - New York Times