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Amdt1.3.19.1 Overview of Campaign Finance

First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Federal and state governments regulate political campaign financing. At the federal level, the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA)1

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. imposes contribution limits, source restrictions for contributions, disclosure and disclaimer requirements for political advertising, and a presidential public financing system.2 In a landmark 1976 ruling, Buckley v. Valeo, and its progeny, the Supreme Court has held that such regulation can infringe on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and association.3 According to the Court, limits on campaign contributions—which involve giving money to an entity, such as a candidate’s campaign committee—and expenditures—which involve spending money directly for electoral advocacy—implicate rights of political expression and association under the First Amendment.4 Likewise, the Court has held that campaign disclosure and disclaimer requirements can infringe on the right to privacy of association and belief as guaranteed under the First Amendment.5 In evaluating challenges under the First Amendment, the Court has assigned different standards of review to various types of campaign finance regulation, based on the burdens imposed and the government interests served.6

Footnotes
1
Codified, as amended, primarily at 52 U.S.C. §§ 30101–30146 and sections of titles 18 and 26. FECA was first enacted in 1971, and was amended in 1974, 1976, 1979, and most recently and significantly, by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), Pub. L. No.
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. back
2
The term disclaimer generally refers to statements of attribution that appear directly on a campaign-related communication, and the term disclosure generally refers to requirements for periodic reporting to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that are publicly available for inspection. back
3
See 424 U.S. 1 (1976) (per curiam). back
4
See id. at 23. back
5
See id. at 64. back
6
For additional discussion on campaign finance, see Amdt1.3.19.2 Campaign Finance Contribution Limits and Source Restrictions, Amdt1.3.19.3 Campaign Finance Expenditure Limits, and Amdt1.3.19.4 Campaign Finance Disclosure and Disclaimer Requirements back