Supreme Court will hear campaign finance law that give millionaires an advantage

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US Supreme Court Tuesday began deliberations on an amendment to campaign finance laws aimed at easing the rules for Congress hopefuls who run against millionaire candidates.

Under US law, individual donors are limited as to how much they can contribute to one or more candidates.

But in the name of freedom of expression, candidates can dig deep and spend as much of their personal wealth as they want on their own campaigns.

As part of a campaign finance reform co-sponsored by Republican Senator John McCain and adopted by Congress in 2002, the donor rules were eased for anyone whose opponent puts up more than 350,000 dollars of their own fortune.

In that case, an individual donor can contribute up to 6,900 dollars to that candidate, compared with just 2,300 to all the others in the race.

In 2004 and 2006, Jack Davis ran in vain for the House of Representatives in New York state and spent some three million dollars of his own money on the two campaigns.

Later in 2006 he appealed to the US courts saying he had been disadvantaged by the amendment which allowed his opponent to boost his campaign chest.

“It’s not often that the rich claim they’ve been unduly burdened because of their fortunes,? the Washington Post said dryly in an editorial Tuesday.

“The public good is served when voters have confidence that seats cannot be bought. The disclosure rules and accommodations required by the amendment fairly promote that goal and should be upheld.?

According to figures from the Federal Election Commission, candidates who spent more than 350,000 dollars of their own funds in 2004 and 2006 put up a total of 144 million dollars of their personal fortune.

Correspondingly, thanks to the amendment their opponents boosted their campaign chests by an extra 8.6 million dollars, although that figure fell short of how much more they could have raised under the rules.

“The perception that House and Senate seats may be bought and are the exclusive province of the rich are corrosive perceptions that Congress can seek to address,? the commission’s brief said.

A ruling is expected before July.

The funding rules for Congressional elections are different from those governing US presidential campaigns, with the 2008 White House race shaping up to be the most expensive ever with estimates reaching a billion dollars.

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