The Lonely Death of Public Campaign Financing

January 1, 2010   •  By IFS staff   •    •  

This article argues that the game of reform, having been the victim of two major campaign finance decisions of the Roberts Court, is over. The Supreme Court’s decision in Davis v. FEC will prove to be fatal to most, if not all, asymmetrical public financing schemes, and the Court’s treatment of expenditures for issue advocacy announced in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL II) will leave most forms of independent expenditures beyond effective limitation. The combination may render public financing systems effectively futile. But the principles underlying WRTL II and Davis have a longstanding pedigree in that jurisprudence. Ultimately, expenditures differ from contributions. It is not the role of the state to level the political playing field. Recognizing the implication of these principles may remind us that democracy may be better served by competition than by control.

IFS staff

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