George F. Will: How much spending equals the 'appearance' of corruption?

Published: Sunday, Oct. 6 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Such limits cannot withstand the court's standard of heightened scrutiny. And two salient facts about all campaign finance regulations should be, individually, sufficient to trigger such scrutiny. First, all such laws implicate core First Amendment values by limiting the expressive activity of individuals associating with, communicating support for, and enabling the speech of, candidates they support. Second, all laws regulating the competition for elective offices are written by occupants of such offices, people who have a permanent and powerful temptation to shape the political process to favor incumbents.

The court has been permissive — too much so — in allowing incumbent legislators to decree the extent to which an individual can support an individual candidate. There is no remaining reason to permit incumbents to stipulate how many candidates can receive contributions of a size that Congress itself has deemed innocuous. So, deference to that congressional judgment now requires repudiating Congress' imposition of aggregate limits.

The aggregate limits certainly look like the kind of corruption called self-dealing. It may not be this, but it certainly has this appearance.

George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

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