Buckley v. Valeo

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Buckley v. Valeo
Court Supreme Court of the United States
Date decided January 29, 1976


In the early 1970s, Congress capped the individual contributions to federal candidates for elected office at $1,000.

The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA), as amended in 1974, set up the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to enforce this law.

Procedural History

Senator James Buckley (plaintiff) filed a lawsuit against Francis Valeo (defendant), a representative of the FEC.

The federal district court and the court of appeals held that the individual contribution limit to candidates doesn't abridge the 1st Amendments freedom of expression [via monetary contribution].


Does the appointment process for the 6 members of the FEC violate the Appointments clause of the US Constitution (Article 2, Section 2)?


SCOTUS upholds the limit on individual contributions.

SCOTUS struck down the limit on how much money a candidate may spend on their (her/his) own campaign.

The Speaker of the House & Senate President pro tempore may not appoint Commissioners to the FEC.


SCOTUS defined political monetary contribution as a form of political expression.


Political action committees (PACs) grew as a result to this decision; PACs take "soft money."

"Hard money" is money given directly to a candidate.