• William R. Maurer
    Managing Attorney of the Washington Office
  • Tim Keller
    Former Senior Attorney

Davis v. FEC and the Constitutionality of “Clean Elections” Systems

In a “clean elections” system, taxpayer funded candidates must agree to limit their campaign spending. Imposing limits on campaign spending for candidates who forego taxpayer dollars and instead run traditional campaigns would be unconstitutional. Most clean elections schemes thus rely on “matching,” “rescue,” or “trigger” funds to level the playing fi eld between publicly funded and traditional candidates and to discourage traditional candidates from exceeding the spending limits imposed on the taxpayer funded candidate. When a traditional candidate raises or spends more money than the taxpayer fi nanced candidate’s initial subsidy, the government gives additional money to the taxpayer fi nanced candidate to counteract the amount the privately fi nanced candidate collects or spends. In other words, once a privately financed candidate raises or spends above the “trigger” amount, her exercise of her First Amendment rights results in a direct government subsidy to her opponent. For almost a decade, federal courts have largely upheld such systems against First Amendment challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Davis v. FEC undermines the reasoning of these decisions and likely spells the end of this new wave of regulating political speech….

Related Cases

Economic Liberty | First Amendment | First Amendment Retaliation | Immunity and Accountability | Other Property Rights Abuses | Private Property

Virginia food truck owners file federal lawsuit after raging town councilmember damaged truck, town council repeatedly harassed them

Theslet Benoir and Clemene Bastien are a married couple that immigrated to the United States from Haiti in 2005. They received asylum, settled in Parksley, Virginia, and opened a brick-and-mortar store that caters to the…