This week the Supreme Court began hearing the oral argument for the case Davis v. Federal Election Commission, a case that may decide the constitutionality of the Millionaire’s Amendment included in the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. This amendment, intended to level the playing field for races in which wealthy candidates make use of their own funds, loosens the restrictions on campaign financing for opponents to those who put $350,000 or more of their personal wealth towards their run for office.
The case was brought to the D.C. District Court by Jack Davis, who ran for a congressional district in New York in 2006. Davis alleged that the law violated the rights guaranteed in the “First Amendment by chilling the speech of self-financed candidates and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment by giving the opponents of self-financed candidates a competitive advantage.”(Fastcase subscribers click for full case) The district ruled in favor of the FEC, finding no inherent threat in the amendment.
Judging from the first day of oral arguments, however, the Supreme Court justices appear divided over the issue. Chief Justice John Roberts stated that the Millionaire’s amendment seems to lower restrictions in the campaign process, further protecting both opponents rights under the First Amendment. Justice Scalia, however, took issue with the idea of leveling the playing field, stating:
“What if one candidate is more eloquent than the other one? You make him talk with pebbles in his mouth?”