Buckley v. Valeo

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Unlike the limitations on contributions and expenditures imposed by 18 U.S.C. 608 (1970 ed., Supp. IV), the disclosure requirements of the Act, 2 U.S.C. 431 et seq. (1970 ed., Supp. IV), are not challenged by appellants as per se unconstitutional restrictions on the exercise of First Amendment freedoms of speech and association. Indeed, appellants argue that “narrowly drawn disclosure requirements are the proper solution to virtually all of the evils Congress sought to remedy.” Brief for Appellants 171. The particular requirements embodied in the Act are attacked as overbroad — both in their application to minor—party and independent candidates and in their extension to contributions as small as $11 or $101. Appellants also challenge the provision for disclosure by those who make independent contributions and expenditures, 434 (e). The Court of Appeals found no constitutional infirmities in the provisions challenged here. We affirm the determination on overbreadth and hold that 434 (e), if narrowly construed, also is within constitutional bounds.

The first federal disclosure law was enacted in 1910. Act of June 25, 1910, c. 392, 36 Stat. 822. It required political committees, defined as national committees and national congressional campaign committees of parties, and organizations operating to influence congressional elections in two or more States, to disclose names of all contributors of $100 or more; identification of recipients of expenditures of $10 or more was also required. 1, 5—6, 36 Stat. 822 824. Annual expenditures of $50 or more “for the purpose of influencing or controlling, in two or more States, the result of” a congressional election had to be reported independently if they were not made through a political committee. 7, 36 Stat. 824. In 1911 the Act was revised to include prenomination transactions such as those involved in conventions and primary campaigns. Act of Aug. 19, 1911, 2, 37 Stat. 26. See United States v. Auto. Workers, 352 U.S., at 575—576.

Disclosure requirements were broadened in the Federal Corrupt Practices Act of 1925 (Title III of the Act of Feb. 28, 1925), 43 Stat. 1070. That Act required political committees, defined as organizations that accept contributions or make expenditures “for the purpose of influencing or attempting to influence” the Presidential or Vice Presidential elections (a) in two or more States or (b) as a subsidiary of a national committee, 302 (c), 43 Stat. 1070, to report total contributions and expenditures, including the names and addresses of contributors of $100 or more and recipients of $10 or more in a calendar year. 305 (a), 43 Stat. 1071. The Act was upheld against a challenge that it infringed upon the prerogatives of the States in Burroughs v. United States, 290 U.S. 534 (1934). The Court held that it was within the power of Congress “to pass appropriate legislation to safeguard [a Presidential] election from the improper use of money to influence the result.” Id., at 545. Although the disclosure requirements were widely circumvented, no further attempts were made to tighten them until 1960, when the Senate passed a bill that would have closed some existing loopholes. S. 2436, 106 Cong. Rec. 1193. The attempt aborted because no similar effort was made in the House.

The Act presently under review replaced all prior disclosure laws. Its primary disclosure provisions impose reporting obligations on “political committees” and candidates. “Political committee” is defined in 431 (d) as a group of persons that receives “contributions” or makes “expenditures” of over $1,000 in a calendar year. “Contributions” and quot;expenditures” are defined in lengthy parallel provisions similar to those in Title 18, discussed above. Both definitions focus on the use of money or other objects of value “for the purpose of . . . influencing” the nomination or election of any person to federal office. 431 (e) (1), (f) (1).

Each political committee is required to register with the Commission, 433, and to keep detailed records of both contributions and expenditures, 432 (c), (d). These records must include the name and address of everyone making a contribution in excess of $10, along with the date and amount of the contribution. If a person’s contributions aggregate more than $100, his occupation and principal place of business are also to be included. 432 (c) (2). These files are subject to periodic audits and field investigations by the
Commission. 438 (a) (8).

Each committee and each candidate also is required to file quarterly reports. 434 (a). The reports are to contain detailed financial information, including the full name, mailing address, occupation, and principal place of business of each person who has contributed over $100 in a calendar year, as well as the amount and date of the contributions. 434 (b). They are to be made available by the Commission “for public inspection and copying.” 438 (a) (4). Every candidate for federal office is required to designate a “principal campaign committee,” which is to receive reports of contributions and expenditures made on the candidate’s behalf from other political committees and to compile and file these reports, together with its own statements, with the Commission. 432 (f).

Every individual or group, other than a political committee or candidate, who makes “contributions” or “expenditures” of over $100 in a calendar year “other than by contribution to a political committee or candidate” is required to file a statement with the Commission. 434 (e). Any violation of these recordkeeping and reporting provisions is punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or a prison term of not more than a year, or both. 441 (a).

A. General Principles

Unlike the overall limitations on contributions and expenditures, the disclosure requirements impose no ceiling on campaign—related activities. But we have repeatedly found that compelled disclosure, in itself, can seriously infringe on privacy of association and belief guaranteed by the First Amendment. E. g., Gibson v. Florida Legislative Comm., 372 U.S. 539 (1963); NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415 (1963); Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479 (1960); Bates v. Little Rock, 361 U.S. 516 (1960); NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958).

We long have recognized that significant encroachments on First Amendment rights of the sort that compelled disclosure imposes cannot be justified by a mere showing of some legitimate governmental interest. Since NAACP v. Alabama we have required that the subordinating interests of the State must survive exacting scrutiny. We also have insisted that there be a “relevant correlation” or “substantial relation” between the governmental interest and the information required to be disclosed. See Pollard v. Roberts, 283 F. Supp. 248, 257 (ED Ark.) (three—judge court), aff’d, 393 U.S. 14 (1968) (per curiam). This type of scrutiny is necessary even if any deterrent effect on the exercise of First Amendment rights arises, not through direct government action, but indirectly as an unintended but inevitable result of the government’s conduct in requiring disclosure. NAACP v. Alabama, supra, at 461. Cf. Kusper v. Pontikes, 414 U.S., at 57—58.

Appellees argue that the disclosure requirements of the Act differ significantly from those at issue in NAACP v. Alabama and its progeny because the Act only requires disclosure of the names of contributors and does not compel political organizations to submit the names of their members.

As we have seen, group association is protected because it enhances “[e]ffective advocacy.” NAACP v. Alabama, supra, at 460. The right to join together “for the advancement of beliefs and ideas,” ibid., is diluted if it does not include the right to pool money through contributions, for funds are often essential if “advocacy” is to be truly or optimally “effective.” Moreover, the invasion of privacy of belief may be as great when the information sought concerns the giving and spending of money as when it concerns the joining of organizations, for “[f]inancial transactions can reveal much about a person’s activities, associations, and beliefs.” California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz, 416 U.S. 21, 78—79 (1974) (POWELL, J., concurring). Our past decisions have not drawn fine lines between contributors and members but have treated them interchangeably. In Bates, for example, we applied the principles of NAACP v. Alabama and reversed convictions for failure to comply with a city ordinance that required the disclosure of “dues, assessments, and contributions paid, by whom and when paid.” 361 U.S., at 518. See also United States v. Rumely, 345 U.S. 41 (1953) (setting aside a contempt conviction of an organization official who refused to disclose names of those who made bulk purchases of books sold by the organization).