Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2001

Abstract

In Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC,1 the Supreme Court emphatically reaffirmed a key element of the campaign finance doctrine first articulated in Buckley v. Valeo2 a quarter-century earlier that governments may, consistent with the First Amendment, impose limitations on the size of contributions to election campaigns.3 Shrink Missouri was significant because the Eighth Circuit decision reversed by the Supreme Court had sought to strengthen the constitutional protection provided to contributions and had invalidated limitations on donations to Missouri state candidates that were actually higher than the limits on donations to federal candidates that the Supreme Court had previously upheld in Buckley.4 Following a series of lower court decisions that had imposed a more stringent standard of judicial review of state restrictions on contributions and had invalidated some contribution caps, 5 Shrink Missouri importantly confirmed both the constitutionality of contribution limitations and the Court's continuing commitment to Buckley in framing its approach to campaign finance questions.

Yet, oddly, Shrink Missouri may also perhaps be seen as the beginning of the end of the Buckley era in campaign finance doctrine. Shrink Missouri challenges Buckley in three ways. First, even in reaffirming Buckley's holding that contributions can be subject to dollar limitations, Shrink Missouri subtly departed from Buckley's emphasis on the speech-like nature of campaign contributions. Shrink Missouri's easy validation of the Missouri contribution caps seems in tension with Buckley's determination that contributions are a form of political speech. Indeed, in declining to impose a more rigorous standard of review, Shrink Missouri may have actually adopted a more liberal one.

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