Supreme Court Restrictions on Political Party Spending Dilute First Amendment, ACLU Says

June 25, 2001 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


NEW YORK –The Supreme Court has watered down both the First Amendment and the traditional role of parties in our political system, the American Civil Liberties Union said today.

The Court’s ruling in FEC v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee, No. 00-191, restricts the ability of political parties to coordinate spending with their chosen candidates.

“After today’s ruling, the parties can spend limitless sums on independent political expenditures but are sharply limited in the amount they can spend on coordinated political expenditures,” said ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro.

“The only way the government will be able to distinguish the two,” he added, ” is by increased efforts to monitor communications between the parties and their candidates. That prospect can and should set off serious First Amendment alarms.”

By restricting coordinated expenditures, (i.e., campaign expenditures coordinated between a party and its candidate), the Court has driven an unnecessary wedge between parties and candidates without significantly advancing the cause of campaign finance reform, Shapiro said.

The Court’s ruling, however, has no direct bearing on the constitutionally suspect provisions contained in pending McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation, according to Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office.

“Today’s decision says nothing about soft money or about the unconstitutional issue advocacy restrictions that the Senate included in the McCain-Feingold bill such as the ban on corporate and union contributions to parties,” Murphy said.

“Given the inconsistent opinions of the Supreme Court on the issue of soft money, Congress should stop undermining the First Amendment by imposing limits, limits and more limits and instead support full and fair public financing for federal elections,”she said.

“If nothing else, the experience of the last 30 years should have been enough to convince everyone that more limits will not work.”

The case is Federal Election Commission v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee, 00-191.

The decision is online at

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release