The amendment was disputed by New York Democrat Jack Davis, who lost House races in Buffalo, N.Y. in 2004 and 2006. He is running a third time this year.
Davis spent nearly $4 million of his own finances in the first two races and says he will spend another $3 million this year. The candidate said the law unfairly rewarded his opponents by helping them surpass campaign fundraising limits.
The “Millionaire’s Amendment” stipulated that if a House candidate spends at least $350,000 of his or her own money, his or her opponent may triple the FEC-mandated $2,300-per-donor limit per election. Senate candidates were also allowed a donor-limit increase based on their state’s population. The amendment was included in the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
“While the BCRA does not impose a cap on a candidate’s expenditure of personal funds, it imposes an unprecedented penalty on any candidate who robustly exercises that First Amendment right, requiring him to choose between the right to engage in unfettered political speech and subjection to discriminatory fundraising limitations,” Justice Samuel Alito Jr., wrote in the court’s decision, according to Congressional Quarterly.
Dissenting Justice Paul Stevens called the amendment “a modest, sensible, and plainly constitutional attempt by Congress to minimize the advantages enjoyed by wealthy candidates,” CQ reported.
Davis’ argument came to the Supreme Court after a three-judge district court panel ruled last August that the provision “places no restrictions on a candidate’s ability to spend unlimited amounts of his personal wealth to communicate his message to voters, not does it reduce the amount of money he is able to raise from contributions.”
The Court disagreed, saying that it would be an unfair advantage to place limitations on a self-financed candidate but extend limits for his or her opponent.