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« SCOTUS Rules For Guns | Blog Home Page | Another Good Poll For Udall »

Court Hits BCRA Again

The Supreme Court didn't stop with guns today, also striking down a key provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, chipping away again at a signature accomplishment for Republican presidential nominee John McCain. The Court ruled 5-4, with Anthony Kennedy joining conservatives in the majority, to strip the so-called "Millionaire's Amendment" from the law.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito struck down the clause, which allows opponents of political candidates who spend more than $350,000 of their own money on a Congressional race to raise more than the $2,300 per contributor currently allowed under federal law. The provision, the Court found, violated the First and Fifth Amendments.

The case, Davis v. Federal Election Commission, was filed in 2006 by Jack Davis, a wealthy Democrat who lost two elections to retiring Rep. Tom Reynolds in New York's Twenty Sixth Congressional District. Davis spent more than $1 million on his 2004 race, which he lost 56%-44%, and $2 million on his 2006 race, which he lost 52%-48%.

Davis argued the provision, which allowed Reynolds to raise up to three times the maximum amount from an individual and required the self-funding candidate report more frequently, forced him to reveal campaign strategy and gave the incumbent an unfair advantage. The Court, today, agreed, sending that provision to the dustbin.

Whether the Millionaire's Amendment had any real effect is difficult to say. In recent years, despite a spate of wealthy candidates running for office, only a handful of self-funders actually won. Too, only a few candidates who were able to raise more funds thanks to an opponent who spent heavily actually took advantage of doing so.

Dubbed the McCain-Feingold act for its two prime sponsors, McCain and Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, BCRA, as it is also known, has undergone its share of challenges. Some minor provisions were struck down in a 2003 challenge brought by Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, while a provision prohibiting third-party ads that do not expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate was ruled unconstitutional last year, in a suit brought by Wisconsin Right to Life, ironically for advertisements run against Feingold.