Supreme Court Upholds Campaign Finance Restriction on Political Parties

June 25, 2001

For Immediate Release

June 25, 2001

Contact Information:

Amanda Cooper, 212 998-6736

Supreme Court Upholds Campaign Finance Restriction on Political Parties

Court Views Contributions To Parties As Potentially Corrupting

Major Victory for Champions of Reform

Two weeks before the House of Representatives is scheduled to consider campaign finance reform legislation, a Supreme Court ruling today reaffirmed Congress’s wide latitude to limit the corrupting influence of money on politics.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is a major setback for reform opponents who have tried to use the Constitution to derail campaign finance reform bills before Congress,” said E. Joshua Rosenkranz, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “A majority of the Court understands exactly how the power of money is used in our elections. The opinion’s language is very strong. The Court was concerned that large donors contribute to party committees to buy ‘obligated officeholders.’”

In Federal Election Commission v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee, the Supreme Court found constitutional a longstanding law restricting the amount of money that political parties can spend in coordination with their candidates. The Court recognized that coordinated spending of money donated to a party is “tailor made to undermine contribution limits” and has the “power to corrupt.”

The Brennan Center filed an amicus brief on behalf of 14 prominent political scientists urging the Court to uphold the restrictions on political party spending. The Supreme Court’s opinion cites the Brennan Center’s brief in rejecting the Colorado Republican Party’s argument.

“The Supreme Court ruled that money funneled into political parties can be as corrupting as money put directly in the pockets of candidates,” explained Mr. Rosenkranz. “Today’s ruling supports the position of reformers who are asking Congress to close the soft money loophole.”

“The Supreme Court clearly understands how election laws are routinely evaded. Not only did the Court reject arguments that parties deserve more constitutional protection than other political players,” said Mr. Rosenkranz, “the Court explained that limits on coordinated party spending are essential for preserving the integrity of our campaigns. The very same reasoning applies to a ban on unregulated soft money.”

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law develops and implements a nonpartisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms. For more information please contact Scott Schell at (212) 998-6318, or Amanda Cooper at (212) 998-6736.