Mariani v. United States
Campaign Finance Reform
This 2000 case challenged the constitutional validity of the Federal Election Campaign Act’s ban on corporate contributions. Renato Mariani, who faced criminal charges for making illegal corporate contributions, argued that the current “soft money” and “issue advocacy” loopholes in the law have undermined the Federal Election Campaign Act to such an extent that the Act no longer served any compelling state interest. Therefore, he argued, without a compelling state interest the restrictions the Act imposed on First Amendment activity were unconstitutional.
The Brennan Center, in an amicus brief representing itself, Common Cause and Democracy 21, countered that although the plaintiff’s factual premise was correct, mainly that the “soft money” lloophole is contrary to FECA, the remedy being sought by Mariani was improper. The Center argued that since it was the FEC, and not Congress that created the “soft money"loophole, it is the loophole rather than the underlying act of Congess that should ultimately be struck down.
The Court upheld the law, finding the hard money provisions not fatally underinclusive and clearly within the proper scope of Congress’s regulatory discretion. See Mariani v. United States (121 S.Ct. 564 2000).