The SCOTUS Busts a Cap


The Supreme Court has overturned Vermont's stringent campaign finance laws—laws which, for example, capped spending for a gubernatorial candidate at a little over $300,000.

In a fractured set of opinions, justices said they were not sweeping aside 30 years of election finance precedent but rather finding only that Vermont's law—the strictest in the nation—sets limits that unconstitutionally hamstring candidates.

The majority took issue with Vermont legislators for "constraining speech" by telling candidates and voters how much campaigning was enough.

The timing is amusing; Vermont's law only affected non-federal races, but the U.S. Senate race shaping up now is already the most expensive in state history. Billionaire businessman Rich Tarrant (yes, he's dumb enough to appear on the ballot as "Rich") has spent more than $3 million to fight for the Republican nomination. If he wins that, he'll face independent Rep. Bernie Sanders, who's endorsed by Democrats and spent around $2 million of individual donations and PAC money. Early on, Sanders proposed limiting spending by both candidates to $2.25 million, but that had less to do with rigorous campaign finance ethics than the fear that Tarrant would sink $10 million into the race. All this is happening despite the fact that Sanders is leading by around 40 points in the polls. A billionaire gets to stroke his ego; Vermont TV stations rake in the bucks; and Vermont elects a(nother) Socialist to represent them in Congress. Who needs campaign spending caps?