Randall v. Sorrell
In 1999, the Vermont Republican State Committee and other plaintiffs filed a federal district court constitutional challenge to various provisions of Vermont state campaign finance law, including the state’s contribution and expenditure limits. The U.S. Supreme Court granted cert on the questions of whether Vermont’s candidate expenditure limits contribution limits ranging from $200-$400 per candidate violate the First Amendment. The Court struck down both the expenditure limits and the contributions limits. With respect to the expenditure limits, the Court relied on its 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo striking down federal expenditure limits on First Amendment grounds. With respect to the contribution limits, the Court noted many differences between Vermont’s limits and the federal and state contribution limits the Court had upheld in earlier decisions against constitutional challenge. The Court found Vermont’s limits to be much lower and more restrictive than the constitutionally permissible contribution limits at the federal level and in other states. Although the Court invalidated Vermont’s contribution limits, the Court’s decision left in force federal limits and limits in other states.