SpeechNow.org and the Paradox of Buckley v. Valeo

February 16, 2009

The right to free speech, including the right to speak out about who should be elected to public office, is a fundamental American right, essential to democratic debate. So, too, is the right of individuals to band together and pool their resources to make their advocacy more eff ective. Th e Founders recognized this, and enshrined the rights to both free speech and association in the First Amendment. But ever since the Supreme Court’s seminal campaign-finance decision in Buckley v. Valeo, speakers have been forced to choose between these rights. Specifi cally, while an individual acting alone may spend unlimited amounts of their own money on ads that call for the defeat or election of federal candidates, groups of individuals may pool no more than $5,000 per person to run identical ads. You can speak freely, or you can associate freely, but you cannot do both. Th is paradox, an unintended result of the Supreme Court’s fi rst major campaign-fi nance ruling, has gone unconsidered for more than 30 years. But that is about to change, thanks to a legal challenge by a new citizens group, SpeechNow.org, which is on a fast track to the en banc D.C. Circuit....

SpeechNow.org and the Paradox of Buckley v. Valeo