Buckley v. Valeo

Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976), was a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court on campaign finance. A majority of justices held that limits on election spending in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 § 608 are unconstitutional. In a per curiam (by the Court) opinion, they ruled that expenditure limits contravene the First Amendment provision on freedom of speech because a restriction on spending for political communication necessarily reduces the quantity of expression. It limited disclosure provisions and limited the Federal Election Commission's power. Justice Byron White dissented in part and wrote that Congress had legitimately recognized unlimited election spending "as a mortal danger against which effective preventive and curative steps must be taken".[1]

Buckley v. Valeo
Argued November 10, 1975
Decided January 29, 1976
Full case nameJames L. Buckley, et al. v. Francis R. Valeo, Secretary of the United States Senate, et al.
Citations424 U.S. 1 (more)
96 S. Ct. 612; 46 L. Ed. 2d 659; 1976 U.S. LEXIS 16; 76-1 U.S. Tax Cas. (CCH) ¶ 9189
Case history
SubsequentAs amended.
The Court upheld some federal limits on campaign contributions, but held expenditure limits unconstitutional.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan Jr. · Potter Stewart
Byron White · Thurgood Marshall
Harry Blackmun · Lewis F. Powell Jr.
William Rehnquist · John P. Stevens
Case opinions
MajorityPer curiam, joined by Brennan, Stewart, Powell; Marshall (in part); Blackmun (in part); Rehnquist (in part); Burger (in part); White (in part).
Stevens took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I, Article II, Sec. 2, cl. 2

Buckley v. Valeo was extended by the U.S. Supreme Court in further cases, including in the five to four decision of First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti in 1978[2] and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010.[3] The latter held that corporations may spend from their general treasuries during elections. In 2014, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission held that aggregate limits on political giving by an individual are unconstitutional.[4]

By some measures, Buckley is the longest opinion ever issued by the Supreme Court.[5]