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COLORADO REPUBLICAN FEDERAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE and DOUGLAS JONES,
TREASURER, PETITIONERS v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the tenth circuit
In my opinion, all money spent by a political party to secure the election of its candidate for the office of United States Senator should be considered a "contribution" to his or her campaign. I therefore disagree with the conclusion reached in Part III of the Court's opinion.
I am persuaded that three interests provide a constitutionally sufficient predicate for federal limits on spending by political parties. First, such limits serve the interest in avoiding both the appearance and the reality of a corrupt political process. A party shares a unique relationship with the candidate it sponsors because their political fates are inextricably linked. That interdependency creates a special danger that the party--or the persons who control the party--will abuse the influence it has over the candidate by virtue of its power to spend. The provisions at issue are appropriately aimed at reducing that threat. The fact that the party in this case had not yet chosen its nominee at the time it broadcast the challenged advertisements is immaterial to the analysis. Although the Democratic and Republican nominees for the 1996 Presidential race will not be selected until this summer, current advertising expenditures by the two national parties are no less contributions to the campaigns of the respective front-runners than those that will be made in the fall.
Second, these restrictions supplement other spending limitations embodied in the Act, which are likewise designed to prevent corruption. Individuals and certain organizations are permitted to contribute up to $1,000 to a candidate. 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(1)(A). Since the same donors can give up to $5,000 to party committees, §441a(a)(1)(C), if there were no limits on party spending, their contributions could be spent to benefit the candidate and thereby circumvent the $1,000 cap. We have recognized the legitimate interest in blocking similar attempts to undermine the policies of the Act. See California Medical Assn. v. Federal Election Comm'n, 453 U.S. 182, 197-199 (1981) (plurality opinion) (approving ceiling on contributions to political action committees to prevent circumvention of limitations on individual contributions to candidates); id., at 203 (Blackmun, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment); Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 38 (1976) (per curiam) (approving limitation on total contributions by an individual in connection with an election on same rationale).
Finally, I believe the Government has an important interest in leveling the electoral playing field by constraining the cost of federal campaigns. As Justice White pointed out in his opinion in Buckley, "money is not always equivalent to or used for speech, even in the context of political campaigns." 424 U. S., at 263 (opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part). It is quite wrong to assume that the net effect of limits on contributions and expenditures--which tend to protect equal access to the political arena, to free candidates and their staffs from the interminable burden of fund raising, and to diminish the importance of repetitive 30 second commercials--will be adverse to the interest in informed debate protected by the First Amendment. See id., at 262-266.
Congress surely has both wisdom and experience in these matters that is far superior to ours. I would therefore accord special deference to its judgment on questions related to the extent and nature of limits on campaign spending. [n.*] Accordingly, I would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
* One irony of the case is that both the Democratic National Party and the Republican National Party have sided with petitioners in challenging a law that Congress has the obvious power to change. See Brief for Democratic National Committee as Amicus Curiae; Brief for Republican National Committee as Amicus Curiae.