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Court strikes down 'millionaire's amendment'

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today struck down the so-called "millionaire's amendment" as an unfair way to help opponents of wealthy candidates who spend from their personal fortunes.

The law allows candidates to receive larger contributions when their wealthy opponents spend heavily from their personal fortunes.

The Court decided by a 5-4 vote in Davis v. FEC that the law violated the First Amendment.

The law was challenged by Jack Davis, a New York Democrat who has so far spent nearly $4 million of his own money in two losing campaigns for Congress and says he will spend another $3 million this year.

Davis said the law unfairly rewarded his opponents by letting them exceed campaign-fundraising limits simply because Davis dipped into his personal funds.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said that if the millionaire's amendment raised the contribution limits for all candidates, Davis' challenge to the law "would plainly fail."

The amendment is part of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, but has come into play in relatively few races. Its most prominent beneficiary so far has been Sen. Barack Obama. He was able to attract additional contributions for his Democratic senatorial primary campaign in Illinois because an opponent spent nearly $29 million of his own money.

Davis lost in 2004 and 2006 to Republican Rep. Tom Reynolds, who spent more than $5 million in winning re-election two years ago, 51% to 49%.

Reynolds chose not to solicit increased contributions after Davis triggered the millionaire's amendment by putting at least $350,000 of his own money into the race. Reynolds could have received $6,900 from individual donors, triple the limit otherwise. Reynolds is retiring at the end of this term.

Justices dissect 'millionaire's amendment'
High court's conservatives appear divided over campaign-finance law allowing candidates to receive larger contributions when wealthy opponents spend heavily from personal fortunes. 04.22.08


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By Tony Mauro Appellant argues that allowing opponents of self-financed candidates to receive larger campaign contributions encourages corruption. 01.14.08

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By Tony Mauro Justices' tough questions remind spectators that this is different high court from one that upheld campaign-finance law in 2003. 04.23.08

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By Tony Mauro Court now has solid majority of five justices who are hostile to campaign-finance reform on First Amendment grounds. 06.30.08

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By Tony Mauro Child-porn case appears to expand range of speech that falls outside of First Amendment protection. 07.07.08

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Campaign finance overview

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