A question from Ruth Reiserer of San Francisco, CA:
Why is so much made of limiting the "free speech" of candidates, when there are already numerous laws and policies restricting contributions and other contributions?
Rep. Tauscher responds:
As I mentioned, the Supreme Court, in its 1976 Buckley v. Vallejo decision, said that limitations on the amount of money candidates spend in their campaigns are unconstitutional because they abrogate the candidate's first amendment right to free speech. At the same time, the Court has held that restrictions on individual contributions to federal candidates or political parties are valid. The distinction, according the ruling in Buckley, is that a limitation on the contributi9on to a candidate or party does not restrict free speech because that same contributor can spend as much as he or she would like on an independent expenditure.
It is clear that too much money is spent on the election campaigns. The amount of money being spent taints the system and reduces the faith of the American people in their elected officials. We must find a way to limit the amount of money in campaigns while respecting the first amendment right of all individuals to speak freely.
It is important that the serious and legitimate questions of free speech and contribution limitations do not prevent us from making needed changes to our campaign system. The elimination of "soft money", for example, poses no constitutional questions and would address the most egregious loophole in the system. It is my hope that the House of Representatives considers legislation this year to ban soft money and require greater disclosure of expenditures by third party groups.
Rep. Pappas responds:
The laws that exist currently have proven to be constitutional and should be
enforced. Many of the current proposals have the potential of crossing the
line of constitutionality and infringing on the rights of individuals and
groups to freely express themselves.
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