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Ken Starr argues for abolishing contribution limits, but the total restoration of 1st Amendment rights is unlikely in the McCain-Feingold case.


Starr Argues For Abolishing Campaign Contribution Limits

Ken Starr argues for abolishing contribution limits, but the total restoration of 1st Amendment rights is unlikely in the McCain-Feingold case.

The Supreme Court should strike down the limits that Congress placed on donations to candidates for federal office and that the court itself upheld in the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo case, says Ken Starr, who is working as a counsel in the case against the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

In both a panel discussion of campaign finance at the Cato Institute last week and a subsequent interview with HUMAN EVENTS, Starr, who is a former solicitor general and U.S. Court of Appeals judge, made a strong argument that, in reviewing the recent complex decision by a special five-judge court on McCain-Feingold, the Supreme Court should take “the logical step” and scrap any limitations on what individuals can give to candidates for federal office.

Recalling his days as law clerk to the late Chief Justice Warren Burger during the Buckley case, Starr said that, while a majority of the court upheld the power of Congress to set limits on contributions to federal candidates, Burger “issued a passionate dissent pointing out that contributing to political campaigns was an act of liberty and should be seen that way. To limit what one could give a candidate, he argued, was equal to limiting donations to the Community Chest or another charity.” In his dissent in Buckley-in which he was joined by Justice Harry Blackmun-Burger wrote that “limitations infringe on 1st Amendment liberties and suffer from the same infirmities that the court correctly sees in the expenditure ceilings.” (In Buckley, the court ruled that limitations on campaign expenditures, but not contributions, violated the 1st Amendment.)

Limiting contributions has limited the American political debate, Starr observed. “I also recall [former Minnesota Democratic Sen.] Gene McCarthy’s argument [in Buckley] that his insurgent campaign for President [in 1968, against fellow Democrat, President Lyndon B. Johnson] could not even have been launched had it not been for a few very wealthy backers’ giving him the venture capital to start up a race. He was like an inventor saying, ‘I have ideas, but I need venture capital to make them happen.’”

Despite these strong arguments, both Starr and fellow plaintiff’s counsel Jan Baran conceded that overturning contribution limits has not been a major argument in the McCain-Feingold case and that the Supreme Court is unlikely to go that far when it decides the case. “I don’t see it happening,” Starr said. “Not now, but it certainly is an intriguing argument for another case another day and should be pursued.” Noting that the issue of regulating political campaigns came out “of the 1960’s and ’70’s,” Starr dubbed it “the last gasp of the command-and-control generation. Children of the information age who are coming of age have been exposed to the free market and realize that all they need to know about a candidate’s contributors is from disclosure. My state of Virginia, where an individual or a corporation can donate X-amount to a candidate, is the model for the future.”

Written By

John Gizzi has come to be known as â??the man who knows everyone in Washingtonâ? and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on whatâ??s going on in the nationâ??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as â??Gizzi on Politicsâ? and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of â??Gizziâ??s America,â? video interviews that appear on Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. Johnâ??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com

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