Randall v. Sorrell , 548 U.S. 230 ( 2006 )


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  • (Slip Opinion)              OCTOBER TERM, 2005                                       1
    
                                           Syllabus
    
             NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
           being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
           The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
           prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
           See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 
    200 U.S. 321
    , 337.
    
    
    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
    
                                           Syllabus
    
                     RANDALL ET AL. v. SORRELL ET AL.
    
    CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
                     THE SECOND CIRCUIT
    
       No. 04–1528.      Argued February 28, 2006—Decided June 26, 2006*
    Vermont’s Act 64 stringently limits both the amounts that candidates
      for state office may spend on their campaigns and the amounts that
      individuals, organizations, and political parties may contribute to
      those campaigns. Soon after Act 64 became law, the petitioners—
      individuals who have run for state office, citizens who vote in state
      elections and contribute to campaigns, and political parties and
      committees participating in state politics—brought this suit against
      the respondents, state officials charged with enforcing the Act. The
      District Court held that Act 64’s expenditure limits violate the First
      Amendment, see Buckley v. Valeo, 
    424 U.S. 1
    , and that the Act’s lim
      its on political parties’ contributions to candidates were unconstitu
      tional, but found the other contribution limits constitutional. The
      Second Circuit held that all of the Act’s contribution limits are consti
      tutional, ruled that the expenditure limits may be constitutional be
      cause they are supported by compelling interests in preventing cor
      ruption or its appearance and in limiting the time state officials must
      spend raising campaign funds, and remanded for the District Court
      to determine whether the expenditure limits were narrowly tailored
      to those interests.
    Held: The judgment is reversed, and the cases are remanded.
    
    382 F.3d 91
    , reversed and remanded.
        JUSTICE BREYER, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE ALITO,
      concluded in Parts I, II–B–3, III, and IV that both of Act 64’s sets of
    
    ——————
       * Together with No. 04–1530, Vermont Republican State Committee
    et al. v. Sorrell et al., and No. 04–1697, Sorrell et al. v. Randall et al.,
    also on certiorari to the same court.
    2                         RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                                      Syllabus
    
        limitations are inconsistent with the First Amendment. Pp. 6–8, 10–
        29.
           1. The expenditure limits violate the First Amendment’s free
        speech guarantees under Buckley. Pp. 6–8, 10–11.
              (a) In Buckley, the Court held, inter alia, that the Government’s
        asserted interest in preventing “corruption and the appearance of
        corruption,” 424 U. S., at 25, provided sufficient justification for the
        contribution limitations imposed on campaigns for federal office by
        the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, id., at 23–38, but that
        FECA’s expenditure limitations violated the First Amendment, id., at
        39–59. The Court explained that the difference between the two
        kinds of limitations is that expenditure limits “impose significantly
        more severe restrictions on protected freedoms of political expression
        and association than” do contribution limits. Id., at 23. Contribution
        limits, though a “marginal restriction,” nevertheless leave the con
        tributor “fre[e] to discuss candidates and issues.” Id., at 20–21. Ex
        penditure limits, by contrast, impose “[a] restriction on the amount of
        money a person or group can spend on political communication,” id.,
        at 19, and thereby necessarily “reduc[e] the quantity of expression by
        restricting the number of issues discussed, the depth of their explora
        tion, and the size of the audience reached,” ibid. For over 30 years, in
        considering the constitutionality of a host of campaign finance stat
        utes, this Court has adhered to Buckley’s constraints, including those
        on expenditure limits. See, e.g., McConnell v. Federal Election
        Comm’n, 
    540 U.S. 93
    , 134. Pp. 6–8.
              (b) The respondents argue unpersuasively that Buckley should be
        distinguished from the present cases on a ground they say Buckley
        did not consider: that expenditure limits help to protect candidates
        from spending too much time raising money rather than devoting
        that time to campaigning among ordinary voters. There is no signifi
        cant basis for that distinction. Act 64’s expenditure limits are not
        substantially different from those at issue in Buckley. Nor is Ver
        mont’s primary justification for imposing its expenditure limits sig
        nificantly different from Congress’ rationale for the Buckley limits:
        preventing corruption and its appearance. The respondents say un
        persuasively that, had the Buckley Court considered the time protec
        tion rationale for expenditure limits, the Court would have upheld
        those limits in the FECA. The Buckley Court, however, was aware of
        the connection between expenditure limits and a reduction in fund-
        raising time. And, in any event, the connection seems perfectly obvi
        ous. Under these circumstances, the respondents’ argument amounts
        to no more than an invitation so to limit Buckley’s holding as effec
        tively to overrule it. That invitation is declined. Pp. 10–11.
           2. Act 64’s contribution limits violate the First Amendment because
                       Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)                      3
    
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    those limits, in their specific details, burden protected interests in a
    manner disproportionate to the public purposes they were enacted to
    advance. Pp. 11–29.
          (a) In upholding the $1,000 contribution limit before it, the Buck
    ley Court recognized, inter alia, that such limits, unlike expenditure
    limits, “involv[e] little direct restraint on” the contributor’s speech,
    424 U. S., at 21, and are permissible as long as the government dem
    onstrates that they are “closely drawn” to match a “sufficiently im
    portant interest,” id., at 25. It found that the interest there ad
    vanced, “prevent[ing] corruption” and its “appearance,” was
    “sufficiently important” to justify the contribution limits, id., at 25–
    26, and that those limits were “closely drawn.” Although recognizing
    that, in determining whether a particular contribution limit was
    “closely drawn,” the amount, or level, of that limit could make a dif
    ference, see id., at 21, the Court added that such “distinctions in de
    gree become significant only when they . . . amount to differences in
    kind,” id., at 30. Pointing out that it had “no scalpel to probe,
    whether, say, a $2,000 ceiling might not serve as well as $1,000,”
    ibid., the Court found “no indication” that FECA’s contribution limi
    tations would have “any dramatic adverse effect on the funding of
    campaigns,” id., at 21. Since Buckley, the Court has consistently up
    held contribution limits in other statutes, but has recognized that
    such limits might sometimes work more harm to protected First
    Amendment interests than their anticorruption objectives could jus
    tify, see, e.g., Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC, 
    528 U.S. 377
    ,
    395–397. Pp. 12–13.
          (b) Although the Court has “no scalpel to probe,” 424 U. S., at 30,
    with exactitude whether particular contribution limits are too low
    and normally defers to the legislature in that regard, it must never
    theless recognize the existence of some lower bound, as Buckley ac
    knowledges. While the interests served by contribution limits, pre
    venting corruption and its appearance, “directly implicate the
    integrity of our electoral process,” McConnell, supra, at 136, that does
    not simply mean the lower the limit, the better. Contribution limits
    that are too low also can harm the electoral process by preventing
    challengers from mounting effective campaigns against incumbent of
    ficeholders, thereby reducing democratic accountability. Where there
    is strong indication in a particular case, i.e., danger signs, that such
    risks exist (both present in kind and likely serious in degree), courts,
    including appellate courts, must review the record independently and
    carefully with an eye toward assessing the statute’s “tailoring,” i.e.,
    toward assessing the restrictions’ proportionality. See Bose Corp. v.
    Consumers Union of United States, Inc., 
    466 U.S. 485
    , 499. Danger
    signs that Act 64’s contribution limits may fall outside tolerable First
    4                         RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
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        Amendment limits are present here. They are substantially lower
        than both the limits the Court has previously upheld and the compa
        rable limits in force in other States. Consequently, the record must
        be examined to determine whether Act 64’s contribution limits are
        “closely drawn” to match the State’s interests. Pp. 13–19.
             (c) The record demonstrates that, from a constitutional perspec
        tive, Act 64’s contribution limits are too restrictive. Five sets of fac
        tors, taken together, lead to the conclusion that those limits are not
        narrowly tailored. First, the record suggests, though it does not con
        clusively prove, that Act 64’s contribution limits will significantly re
        strict the amount of funding available for challengers to run competi
        tive campaigns. Second, Act 64’s insistence that a political party and
        all of its affiliates together abide by exactly the same low $200 to
        $400 contribution limits that apply to individual contributors threat
        ens harm to a particularly important political right, the right to asso
        ciate in a political party. See, e.g., California Democratic Party v.
        Jones, 
    530 U.S. 567
    , 574. Although the Court upheld federal limits
        on political parties’ contributions to candidates in Federal Election
        Comm’n v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Comm., 
    533 U.S. 431
    , the limits there at issue were far less problematic, for they were
        significantly higher than Act 64’s limits, see, e.g., id., at 438–439, and
        n. 3, and they were much higher than the federal limits on contribu
        tions from individuals to candidates, see id., at 453. Third, Act 64’s
        treatment of volunteer services aggravates the problem. Although
        the Act excludes uncompensated volunteer services from its “contri
        bution” definition, it does not exclude the expenses volunteers incur,
        e.g., travel expenses, in the course of campaign activities. The com
        bination of very low contribution limits and the absence of an excep
        tion excluding volunteer expenses may well impede a campaign’s
        ability effectively to use volunteers, thereby making it more difficult
        for individuals to associate in this way. Cf. Buckley, supra, at 22.
        Fourth, unlike the contribution limits upheld in Shrink, Act 64’s lim
        its are not adjusted for inflation, but decline in real value each year.
        A failure to index limits means that limits already suspiciously low
        will almost inevitably become too low over time. Fifth, nowhere in
        the record is there any special justification for Act 64’s low and re
        strictive contribution limits. Rather, the basic justifications the State
        has advanced in support of such limits are those present in Buckley.
        Indeed, other things being equal, one might reasonably believe that a
        contribution of, say, $250 (or $450) to a candidate’s campaign was
        less likely to prove a corruptive force than the far larger contribu
        tions at issue in the other campaign finance cases the Court has con
        sidered. Pp. 19–28.
             (d) It is not possible to sever some of the Act’s contribution limit
                       Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)                     5
    
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    provisions from others that might remain fully operative. Doing so
    would require the Court to write words into the statute (inflation in
    dexing), to leave gaping loopholes (no limits on party contributions),
    or to foresee which of many different possible ways the Vermont Leg
    islature might respond to the constitutional objections to Act 64. In
    these circumstances, the legislature likely would not have intended
    the Court to set aside the statute’s contribution limits. The legisla
    ture is free to rewrite those provisions to address the constitutional
    difficulties here identified. Pp. 28–29.
       JUSTICE BREYER, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE in Parts II–B–1 and
    II–B–2, rejected the respondents’ argument that Buckley should, in
    effect, be overruled because subsequent experience has shown that
    contribution limits alone cannot effectively deter corruption or its ap
    pearance. Stare decisis, the basic legal principle commanding judicial
    respect for a court’s earlier decisions and their rules of law, prevents
    the overruling of Buckley. Adherence to precedent is the norm; de
    parture from it is exceptional, requiring “special justification,” Ari
    zona v. Rumsey, 
    467 U.S. 203
    , 212, especially where, as here, the
    principle at issue has become settled through iteration and reitera
    tion over a long period. There is no special justification here. Subse
    quent case law has not made Buckley a legal anomaly or otherwise
    undermined its basic legal principles. Cf. Dickerson v. United States,
    
    530 U.S. 428
    , 443. Nor is there any demonstration that circum
    stances have changed so radically as to undermine Buckley’s critical
    factual assumptions. The respondents have not shown, for example,
    any dramatic increase in corruption or its appearance in Vermont;
    nor have they shown that expenditure limits are the only way to at
    tack that problem. Cf. McConnell, supra. Finally, overruling Buckley
    now would dramatically undermine the considerable reliance that
    Congress and state legislatures have placed upon it in drafting cam
    paign finance laws. And this Court has followed Buckley, upholding
    and applying its reasoning in later cases. Pp. 8–10.
       JUSTICE ALITO agreed that Act 64’s expenditure and contribution
    limits violate the First Amendment, but concluded that respondents’
    backup argument asking this Court to revisit Buckley v. Valeo, 
    424 U.S. 1
    , need not be reached because they have failed to address consid
    erations of stare decisis. Pp. 1–2.
       JUSTICE KENNEDY agreed that Vermont’s limitations on campaign
    expenditures and contributions violate the First Amendment, but
    concluded that, given his skepticism regarding this Court’s campaign
    finance jurisprudence, see, e.g., McConnell v. Federal Election
    Comm’n, 
    540 U.S. 93
    , 286–287, 313, it is appropriate for him to con
    cur only in the judgment. Pp. 1–3.
       JUSTICE THOMAS, joined by JUSTICE SCALIA, agreed that Vermont’s
    6                         RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
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        Act 64 is unconstitutional, but disagreed with the plurality’s ration
        ale for striking down that statute. Buckley v. Valeo, 
    424 U.S. 1
    , pro
        vides insufficient protection to political speech, the core of the First
        Amendment, is therefore illegitimate and not protected by stare de
        cisis, and should be overruled and replaced with a standard faithful
        to the Amendment. This Court erred in Buckley when it distin
        guished between contribution and expenditure limits, finding the
        former to be a less severe infringement on First Amendment rights.
        See, e.g., Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC, 
    528 U.S. 377
    ,
        410–418. Both the contribution and expenditure restrictions of Act
        64 should be subjected to strict scrutiny, which they would fail. See,
        e.g., Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Comm. v. Federal Election
        Comm’n, 
    518 U.S. 604
    , 640–641. Pp. 1–10.
    
      BREYER, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an
    opinion, in which ROBERTS, C. J., joined, and in which ALITO, J., joined
    as to all but Parts II–B–1 and II–B–2. ALITO, J., filed an opinion con
    curring in part and concurring in the judgment. KENNEDY, J., filed an
    opinion concurring in the judgment. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion con
    curring in the judgment, in which SCALIA, J., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a
    dissenting opinion. SOUTER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which
    GINSBURG, J., joined, and in which STEVENS, J., joined as to Parts II and
    III.
                            Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)                              1
    
                                 Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
         NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the
         preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to
         notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Wash
         ington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order
         that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
    
    
    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
                                       _________________
    
                       Nos. 04–1528, 04–1530 and 04–1697
                                       _________________
    
    
              NEIL RANDALL, ET AL., PETITIONERS
    04–1528                   v.
                  WILLIAM H. SORRELL ET AL.
    
    VERMONT REPUBLICAN STATE COMMITTEE, ET AL.,
                   PETITIONERS
    04–1530              v.
             WILLIAM H. SORRELL ET AL.
    
        WILLIAM H. SORRELL, ET AL., PETITIONERS
    04–1697              v.
                 NEIL RANDALL ET AL.
    ON WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
               APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
                                     [June 26, 2006]
    
       JUSTICE BREYER announced the judgment of the Court,
    and delivered an opinion in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE
    joins, and in which JUSTICE ALITO joins except as to Parts
    II–B–1 and II–B–2.
       We here consider the constitutionality of a Vermont
    campaign finance statute that limits both (1) the amounts
    that candidates for state office may spend on their cam
    paigns (expenditure limitations) and (2) the amounts that
    individuals, organizations, and political parties may con
    tribute to those campaigns (contribution limitations). Vt.
    Stat. Ann., Tit. 17, §2801 et seq. (2002). We hold that both
    2                   RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    sets of limitations are inconsistent with the First Amend
    ment. Well-established precedent makes clear that the
    expenditure limits violate the First Amendment. Buckley
    v. Valeo, 
    424 U.S. 1
    , 54–58 (1976) (per curiam). The
    contribution limits are unconstitutional because in their
    specific details (involving low maximum levels and other
    restrictions) they fail to satisfy the First Amendment’s
    requirement of careful tailoring. Id., at 25–30. That is to
    say, they impose burdens upon First Amendment interests
    that (when viewed in light of the statute’s legitimate
    objectives) are disproportionately severe.
                                   I
    
                                   A
    
       Prior to 1997, Vermont’s campaign finance law imposed
    no limit upon the amount a candidate for state office could
    spend. It did, however, impose limits upon the amounts
    that individuals, corporations, and political committees
    could contribute to the campaign of such a candidate.
    Individuals and corporations could contribute no more
    than $1,000 to any candidate for state office. §2805(a)
    (1996). Political committees, excluding political parties,
    could contribute no more than $3,000. §2805(b). The
    statute imposed no limit on the amount that political
    parties could contribute to candidates.
       In 1997, Vermont enacted a more stringent campaign
    finance law, Pub. Act No. 64, codified at Vt. Stat. Ann.,
    Tit. 17, §2801 et seq. (2002) (hereinafter Act or Act 64), the
    statute at issue here. Act 64, which took effect immedi
    ately after the 1998 elections, imposes mandatory expen
    diture limits on the total amount a candidate for state
    office can spend during a “two-year general election cycle,”
    i.e., the primary plus the general election, in approxi
    mately the following amounts: governor, $300,000; lieu
    tenant governor, $100,000; other statewide offices,
    $45,000; state senator, $4,000 (plus an additional $2,500
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)           3
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    for each additional seat in the district); state representa
    tive (two-member district), $3,000; and state representa
    tive (single member district), $2,000. §2805a(a). These
    limits are adjusted for inflation in odd-numbered years
    based on the Consumer Price Index. §2805a(e). Incum
    bents seeking reelection to statewide office may spend no
    more than 85% of the above amounts, and incumbents
    seeking reelection to the State Senate or House may spend
    no more than 90% of the above amounts. §2805a(c). The
    Act defines “[e]xpenditure” broadly to mean the
        “payment, disbursement, distribution, advance, de
        posit, loan or gift of money or anything of value, paid
        or promised to be paid, for the purpose of influencing
        an election, advocating a position on a public question,
        or supporting or opposing one or more candidates.”
        §2801(3).
    With certain minor exceptions, expenditures over $50
    made on a candidate’s behalf by others count against the
    candidate’s expenditure limit if those expenditures are
    “intentionally facilitated by, solicited by or approved by”
    the candidate’s campaign. §§2809(b), (c). These provi
    sions apply so as to count against a campaign’s expendi
    ture limit any spending by political parties or committees
    that is coordinated with the campaign and benefits the
    candidate. And any party expenditure that “primarily
    benefits six or fewer candidates who are associated with
    the political party” is “presumed” to be coordinated with
    the campaign and therefore to count against the cam
    paign’s expenditure limit. §§2809(b), (d).
       Act 64 also imposes strict contribution limits. The
    amount any single individual can contribute to the cam
    paign of a candidate for state office during a “two-year
    general election cycle” is limited as follows: governor,
    lieutenant governor, and other statewide offices, $400;
    state senator, $300; and state representative, $200.
    4                   RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    §2805(a). Unlike its expenditure limits, Act 64’s contribu
    tion limits are not indexed for inflation.
       A political committee is subject to these same limits.
    Ibid. So is a political party, ibid., defined broadly to in
    clude “any subsidiary, branch or local unit” of a party, as
    well as any “national or regional affiliates” of a party
    (taken separately or together). §2801(5). Thus, for exam
    ple, the statute treats the local, state, and national affili
    ates of the Democratic Party as if they were a single entity
    and limits their total contribution to a single candidate’s
    campaign for governor (during the primary and the gen
    eral election together) to $400.
       The Act also imposes a limit of $2,000 upon the amount
    any individual can give to a political party during a 2-year
    general election cycle. §2805(a).
       The Act defines “contribution” broadly in approximately
    the same way it defines “expenditure.” §2801(2). Any
    expenditure made on a candidate’s behalf counts as a
    contribution to the candidate if it is “intentionally facili
    tated by, solicited by or approved by” the candidate.
    §§2809(a), (c). And a party expenditure that “primarily
    benefits six or fewer candidates who are associated with
    the” party is “presumed” to count against the party’s
    contribution limits. §§2809(a), (d).
       There are a few exceptions. A candidate’s own contribu
    tions to the campaign and those of the candidate’s family
    fall outside the contribution limits. §2805(f). Volunteer
    services do not count as contributions. §2801(2). Nor does
    the cost of a meet-the-candidate function, provided that
    the total cost for the function amounts to $100 or less.
    §2809(d).
       In addition to these expenditure and contribution limits,
    the Act sets forth disclosure and reporting requirements
    and creates a voluntary public financing system for gu
    bernatorial elections. §§2803, 2811, 2821–2823, 2831,
    2832, 2851–2856. None of these is at issue here. The Act
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)            5
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    also limits the amount of contributions a candidate, politi
    cal committee, or political party can receive from out-of
    state sources. §2805(c). The lower courts held these out-
    of-state contribution limits unconstitutional, and the
    parties do not challenge that holding.
                                 B
       The petitioners are individuals who have run for state
    office in Vermont, citizens who vote in Vermont elections
    and contribute to Vermont campaigns, and political par
    ties and committees that participate in Vermont politics.
    Soon after Act 64 became law, they brought this lawsuit in
    Federal District Court against the respondents, state
    officials charged with enforcement of the Act. Several
    other private groups and individual citizens intervened in
    the District Court proceedings in support of the Act and
    are joined here as respondents as well.
       The District Court agreed with the petitioners that the
    Act’s expenditure limits violate the First Amendment. See
    Buckley, 
    424 U.S. 1
    . The court also held unconstitutional
    the Act’s limits on the contributions of political parties to
    candidates. At the same time, the court found the Act’s
    other contribution limits constitutional.        Landell v.
    Sorrell, 
    118 F. Supp. 2d 470
     (Vt. 2000).
       Both sides appealed. A divided panel of the Court of
    Appeals for the Second Circuit held that all of the Act’s
    contribution limits are constitutional. It also held that the
    Act’s expenditure limits may be constitutional. Landell v.
    Sorrell, 
    382 F.3d 91
     (2004). It found those limits sup
    ported by two compelling interests, namely, an interest in
    preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption and
    an interest in limiting the amount of time state officials
    must spend raising campaign funds. The Circuit then
    remanded the case to the District Court with instructions
    to determine whether the Act’s expenditure limits were
    narrowly tailored to those interests.
    6                  RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
      The petitioners and respondents all sought certiorari.
    They asked us to consider the constitutionality of Act 64’s
    expenditure limits, its contribution limits, and a related
    definitional provision. We agreed to do so. 545 U. S. ___
    (2005).
                               II
      We turn first to the Act’s expenditure limits. Do
    those limits violate the First Amendment’s free speech
    guarantees?
                                    A
       In Buckley v. Valeo, supra, the Court considered the
    constitutionality of the Federal Election Campaign Act of
    1971 (FECA), 86 Stat. 3, as amended, 
    2 U.S. C
    . §431 et
    seq., a statute that, much like the Act before us, imposed
    both expenditure and contribution limitations on cam
    paigns for public office. The Court, while upholding
    FECA’s contribution limitations as constitutional, held
    that the statute’s expenditure limitations violated the
    First Amendment.
       Buckley stated that both kinds of limitations “implicate
    fundamental First Amendment interests.” 424 U. S., at
    23. It noted that the Government had sought to justify the
    statute’s infringement on those interests in terms of the
    need to prevent “corruption and the appearance of corrup
    tion.” Id., at 25; see also id., at 55. In the Court’s view,
    this rationale provided sufficient justification for the
    statute’s contribution limitations, but it did not provide
    sufficient justification for the expenditure limitations.
       The Court explained that the basic reason for this dif
    ference between the two kinds of limitations is that ex
    penditure limitations “impose significantly more severe
    restrictions on protected freedoms of political expression
    and association than” do contribution limitations. Id., at
    23. Contribution limitations, though a “marginal restric
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)            7
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    tion upon the contributor’s ability to engage in free com
    munication,” nevertheless leave the contributor “fre[e] to
    discuss candidates and issues.” Id., at 20–21. Expendi
    ture limitations, by contrast, impose “[a] restriction on the
    amount of money a person or group can spend on political
    communication during a campaign.” Id., at 19. They
    thereby necessarily “reduc[e] the quantity of expression by
    restricting the number of issues discussed, the depth of
    their exploration, and the size of the audience reached.”
    Ibid. Indeed, the freedom “to engage in unlimited political
    expression subject to a ceiling on expenditures is like
    being free to drive an automobile as far and as often as
    one desires on a single tank of gasoline.” Id., at 19, n. 18.
       The Court concluded that “[n]o governmental interest
    that has been suggested is sufficient to justify the restric
    tion on the quantity of political expression imposed by” the
    statute’s expenditure limitations. Id., at 55. It decided
    that the Government’s primary justification for expendi
    ture limitations, preventing corruption and its appear
    ance, was adequately addressed by the Act’s contribution
    limitations and disclosure requirements. Ibid. The Court
    also considered other governmental interests advanced in
    support of expenditure limitations. It rejected each. Id.,
    at 56–57. Consequently, it held that the expenditure
    limitations were “constitutionally invalid.” Id., at 58.
       Over the last 30 years, in considering the constitutional
    ity of a host of different campaign finance statutes, this
    Court has repeatedly adhered to Buckley’s constraints,
    including those on expenditure limits. See McConnell v.
    Federal Election Comm’n, 
    540 U.S. 93
    , 134 (2003); Fed
    eral Election Comm’n v. Colorado Republican Federal
    Campaign Comm., 
    533 U.S. 431
    , 441 (2001) (Colorado II);
    Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC, 
    528 U.S. 377
    ,
    386 (2000) (Shrink); Colorado Republican Federal Cam
    paign Comm. v. Federal Election Comm’n, 
    518 U.S. 604
    ,
    610 (1996) (Colorado I) (plurality opinion); Federal Elec
    8                   RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    tion Comm’n v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Inc., 
    479 U.S. 238
    , 259–260 (1986); Federal Election Comm’n v.
    National Conservative Political Action Comm., 
    470 U.S. 480
    , 491 (1985) (NCPAC); California Medical Assn. v.
    Federal Election Comm’n, 
    453 U.S. 182
    , 194–195 (1981)
    (plurality opinion).
                                  B
                                  1
       The respondents recognize that, in respect to expendi
    ture limits, Buckley appears to be a controlling—and
    unfavorable—precedent. They seek to overcome that
    precedent in two ways. First, they ask us in effect to
    overrule Buckley. Post-Buckley experience, they believe,
    has shown that contribution limits (and disclosure re
    quirements) alone cannot effectively deter corruption or its
    appearance; hence experience has undermined an assump
    tion underlying that case. Indeed, the respondents have
    devoted several pages of their briefs to attacking Buckley’s
    holding on expenditure limits. See Brief for Respondent-
    Cross-Petitioner Vermont Public Interest Research Group
    et al. 36–39 (arguing that “sound reasons exist to revisit
    the applicable standard of review” for expenditure limits);
    Brief for Respondent-Cross-Petitioner William Sorrell
    et al. 28–31 (arguing that “the Court should revisit Buck
    ley and consider alternative constitutional approaches to
    spending limits”).
       Second, in the alternative, they ask us to limit the scope
    of Buckley significantly by distinguishing Buckley from the
    present case. They advance as a ground for distinction a
    justification for expenditure limitations that, they say,
    Buckley did not consider, namely that such limits help to
    protect candidates from spending too much time raising
    money rather than devoting that time to campaigning
    among ordinary voters. We find neither argument
    persuasive.
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)            9
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
                                  2
      The Court has often recognized the “fundamental impor
    tance” of stare decisis, the basic legal principle that com
    mands judicial respect for a court’s earlier decisions and
    the rules of law they embody. See Harris v. United States,
    
    536 U.S. 545
    , 556–557 (2002) (plurality opinion) (citing
    numerous cases). The Court has pointed out that stare
    decisis “ ‘promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and con
    sistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on
    judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and per
    ceived integrity of the judicial process.’ ” United States v.
    International Business Machines Corp., 
    517 U.S. 843
    , 856
    (1996) (quoting Payne v. Tennessee, 
    501 U.S. 808
    , 827
    (1991)). Stare decisis thereby avoids the instability and
    unfairness that accompany disruption of settled legal
    expectations. For this reason, the rule of law demands
    that adhering to our prior case law be the norm. Depar
    ture from precedent is exceptional, and requires “special
    justification.” Arizona v. Rumsey, 
    467 U.S. 203
    , 212
    (1984). This is especially true where, as here, the princi
    ple has become settled through iteration and reiteration
    over a long period of time.
      We can find here no such special justification that would
    require us to overrule Buckley. Subsequent case law has
    not made Buckley a legal anomaly or otherwise under
    mined its basic legal principles. Cf. Dickerson v. United
    States, 
    530 U.S. 428
    , 443 (2000). We cannot find in the
    respondents’ claims any demonstration that circumstances
    have changed so radically as to undermine Buckley’s
    critical factual assumptions. The respondents have not
    shown, for example, any dramatic increase in corruption
    or its appearance in Vermont; nor have they shown that
    expenditure limits are the only way to attack that prob
    lem. Cf. McConnell v. FEC, 
    540 U.S. 93
    . At the same
    time, Buckley has promoted considerable reliance. Con
    gress and state legislatures have used Buckley when
    10                 RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    drafting campaign finance laws. And, as we have said,
    this Court has followed Buckley, upholding and applying
    its reasoning in later cases. Overruling Buckley now
    would dramatically undermine this reliance on our settled
    precedent.
       For all these reasons, we find this a case that fits the
    stare decisis norm. And we do not perceive the strong
    justification that would be necessary to warrant overrul
    ing so well established a precedent. We consequently
    decline the respondents’ invitation to reconsider Buckley.
                                   3
       The respondents also ask us to distinguish these cases
    from Buckley. But we can find no significant basis for that
    distinction. Act 64’s expenditure limits are not substan
    tially different from those at issue in Buckley. In both
    instances the limits consist of a dollar cap imposed upon a
    candidate’s expenditures. Nor is Vermont’s primary justi
    fication for imposing its expenditure limits significantly
    different from Congress’ rationale for the Buckley limits:
    preventing corruption and its appearance.
       The sole basis on which the respondents seek to distin
    guish Buckley concerns a further supporting justification.
    They argue that expenditure limits are necessary in order
    to reduce the amount of time candidates must spend
    raising money.      Brief for Respondent/Cross-Petitioner
    Vermont Public Interest Research Group et al. 16–20;
    Brief for Respondent/Cross-Petitioner William H. Sorrell
    et al. 22–25. Increased campaign costs, together with the
    fear of a better-funded opponent, mean that, without
    expenditure limits, a candidate must spend too much time
    raising money instead of meeting the voters and engaging
    in public debate. Buckley, the respondents add, did not
    fully consider this justification. Had it done so, they say,
    the Court would have upheld, not struck down, FECA’s
    expenditure limits.
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)           11
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
       In our view, it is highly unlikely that fuller considera
    tion of this time protection rationale would have changed
    Buckley’s result. The Buckley Court was aware of the
    connection between expenditure limits and a reduction in
    fundraising time. In a section of the opinion dealing with
    FECA’s public financing provisions, it wrote that Congress
    was trying to “free candidates from the rigors of fundrais
    ing.” 424 U. S., at 91; see also id., at 96 (“[L]imits on
    contributions necessarily increase the burden of fundrais
    ing,” and “public financing” was designed in part to relieve
    Presidential candidates “from the rigors of soliciting pri
    vate contributions”); id., at 258–259 (White, J., concurring
    in part and dissenting in part) (same). The Court of Ap
    peals’ opinion and the briefs filed in this Court pointed out
    that a natural consequence of higher campaign expendi
    tures was that “candidates were compelled to allow to fund
    raising increasing and extreme amounts of money and
    energy.” Buckley v. Valeo, 
    519 F.2d 821
    , 838 (CADC
    1975); see also Brief for United States et al. as Amici
    Curiae in Buckley v. Valeo, O. T. 1975, Nos. 75–436 and
    75–437, p. 36 (“Fund raising consumes candidate time
    that otherwise would be devoted to campaigning”). And,
    in any event, the connection between high campaign ex
    penditures and increased fundraising demands seems
    perfectly obvious.
       Under these circumstances, the respondents’ argument
    amounts to no more than an invitation so to limit Buck
    ley’s holding as effectively to overrule it. For the reasons
    set forth above, we decline that invitation as well. And,
    given Buckley’s continued authority, we must con
    clude that Act 64’s expenditure limits violate the First
    Amendment.
                                 III
      We turn now to a more complex question, namely the
    constitutionality of Act 64’s contribution limits. The par
    12                  RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    ties, while accepting Buckley’s approach, dispute whether,
    despite Buckley’s general approval of statutes that limit
    campaign contributions, Act 64’s contribution limits are so
    severe that in the circumstances its particular limits
    violate the First Amendment.
                                   A
       As with the Act’s expenditure limits, we begin with
    Buckley. In that case, the Court upheld the $1,000 contri
    bution limit before it. Buckley recognized that contribu
    tion limits, like expenditure limits, “implicate fundamen
    tal First Amendment interests,” namely, the freedoms of
    “political expression” and “political association.” 424 U. S.,
    at 15, 23. But, unlike expenditure limits (which “necessar
    ily reduc[e] the quantity of expression by restricting the
    number of issues discussed, the depth of their exploration,
    and the size of the audience reached,” id., at 19), contribu
    tion limits “involv[e] little direct restraint on” the con
    tributor’s speech, id., at 21. They do restrict “one aspect of
    the contributor’s freedom of political association,” namely,
    the contributor’s ability to support a favored candidate,
    but they nonetheless “permi[t] the symbolic expression of
    support evidenced by a contribution,” and they do “not in
    any way infringe the contributor’s freedom to discuss
    candidates and issues.” Id., at 21, 24.
       Consequently, the Court wrote, contribution limitations
    are permissible as long as the Government demonstrates
    that the limits are “closely drawn” to match a “sufficiently
    important interest.” Id., at 25. It found that the interest
    advanced in the case, “prevent[ing] corruption” and its
    “appearance,” was “sufficiently important” to justify the
    statute’s contribution limits. Id., at 25–26.
       The Court also found that the contribution limits before
    it were “closely drawn.” It recognized that, in determining
    whether a particular contribution limit was “closely
    drawn,” the amount, or level, of that limit could make a
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)           13
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    difference. Indeed, it wrote that “contribution restrictions
    could have a severe impact on political dialogue if the
    limitations prevented candidates and political committees
    from amassing the resources necessary for effective advo
    cacy.” Id., at 21. But the Court added that such “distinc
    tions in degree become significant only when they can be
    said to amount to differences in kind.” Id., at 30. Pointing
    out that it had “no scalpel to probe, whether, say, a $2,000
    ceiling might not serve as well as $1,000,” ibid., the Court
    found “no indication” that the $1,000 contribution limita
    tions imposed by the Act would have “any dramatic ad
    verse effect on the funding of campaigns,” id., at 21. It
    therefore found the limitations constitutional.
       Since Buckley, the Court has consistently upheld contri
    bution limits in other statutes. Shrink, 
    528 U.S. 377
    ($1075 limit on contributions to candidates for Missouri
    state auditor); California Medical Assn., 
    453 U.S. 182
    ($5,000 limit on contributions to multicandidate political
    committees). The Court has recognized, however, that
    contribution limits might sometimes work more harm to
    protected First Amendment interests than their anticor
    ruption objectives could justify. See Shrink, supra, at
    395–397; Buckley, supra, at 21. And individual Members
    of the Court have expressed concern lest too low a limit
    magnify the “reputation-related or media-related advan
    tages of incumbency and thereby insulat[e] legislators
    from effective electoral challenge.” Shrink, supra, at 403–
    404 (BREYER, J., joined by GINSBURG, J., concurring). In
    the cases before us, the petitioners challenge Act 64’s
    contribution limits on that basis.
                                 B
      Following Buckley, we must determine whether Act 64’s
    contribution limits prevent candidates from “amassing the
    resources necessary for effective [campaign] advocacy,”
    424 U. S., at 21; whether they magnify the advantages of
    14                  RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    incumbency to the point where they put challengers to a
    significant disadvantage; in a word, whether they are too
    low and too strict to survive First Amendment scrutiny.
    In answering these questions, we recognize, as Buckley
    stated, that we have “no scalpel to probe” each possible
    contribution level. Id., at 30. We cannot determine with
    any degree of exactitude the precise restriction necessary
    to carry out the statute’s legitimate objectives. In practice,
    the legislature is better equipped to make such empirical
    judgments, as legislators have “particular expertise” in
    matters related to the costs and nature of running for
    office. McConnell, 540 U. S., at 137. Thus ordinarily we
    have deferred to the legislature’s determination of such
    matters.
       Nonetheless, as Buckley acknowledged, we must recog
    nize the existence of some lower bound. At some point the
    constitutional risks to the democratic electoral process
    become too great. After all, the interests underlying con
    tribution limits, preventing corruption and the appearance
    of corruption, “directly implicate the integrity of our elec
    toral process.” McConnell, supra, at 136 (internal quota
    tion marks omitted). Yet that rationale does not simply
    mean “the lower the limit, the better.” That is because
    contribution limits that are too low can also harm the
    electoral process by preventing challengers from mounting
    effective campaigns against incumbent officeholders,
    thereby reducing democratic accountability. Were we to
    ignore that fact, a statute that seeks to regulate campaign
    contributions could itself prove an obstacle to the very
    electoral fairness it seeks to promote. Thus, we see no
    alternative to the exercise of independent judicial judg
    ment as a statute reaches those outer limits. And, where
    there is strong indication in a particular case, i.e., danger
    signs, that such risks exist (both present in kind and likely
    serious in degree), courts, including appellate courts, must
    review the record independently and carefully with an eye
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)           15
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    toward assessing the statute’s “tailoring,” that is, toward
    assessing the proportionality of the restrictions. See Bose
    Corp. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc., 
    466 U.S. 485
    , 499 (1984) (“[A]n appellate court has an obligation to
    ‘make an independent examination of the whole record’ in
    order to make sure that ‘the judgment does not constitute
    a forbidden intrusion on the field of free expression’ ”
    (quoting New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 
    376 U.S. 254
    ,
    284–286 (1964))).
      We find those danger signs present here. As compared
    with the contribution limits upheld by the Court in the
    past, and with those in force in other States, Act 64’s
    limits are sufficiently low as to generate suspicion that
    they are not closely drawn. The Act sets its limits per
    election cycle, which includes both a primary and a gen
    eral election. Thus, in a gubernatorial race with both
    primary and final election contests, the Act’s contribution
    limit amounts to $200 per election per candidate (with
    significantly lower limits for contributions to candidates
    for State Senate and House of Representatives, see supra,
    at 3). These limits apply both to contributions from indi
    viduals and to contributions from political parties,
    whether made in cash or in expenditures coordinated (or
    presumed to be coordinated) with the candidate. See
    supra, at 3–4.
      These limits are well below the limits this Court upheld
    in Buckley. Indeed, in terms of real dollars (i.e., adjusting
    for inflation), the Act’s $200 per election limit on individ
    ual contributions to a campaign for governor is slightly
    more than one-twentieth of the limit on contributions to
    campaigns for federal office before the Court in Buckley.
    Adjusted to reflect its value in 1976 (the year Buckley was
    decided), Vermont’s contribution limit on campaigns for
    statewide office (including governor) amounts to $113.91
    per 2-year election cycle, or roughly $57 per election, as
    compared to the $1,000 per election limit on individual
    16                  RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    contributions at issue in Buckley. (The adjusted value of
    Act 64’s limit on contributions from political parties to
    candidates for statewide office, again $200 per candidate
    per election, is just over one one-hundredth of the compa
    rable limit before the Court in Buckley, $5,000 per elec
    tion.) Yet Vermont’s gubernatorial district—the entire
    State—is no smaller than the House districts to which
    Buckley’s limits applied. In 1976, the average congres
    sional district contained a population of about 465,000.
    Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of Census, Statistical Abstract
    of the United States 459 (1976) (Statistical Abstract)
    (describing results of 1970 census). Indeed, Vermont’s
    population is 621,000—about one-third larger. Statistical
    Abstract 21 (2006) (describing Vermont’s population in
    2004).
       Moreover, considered as a whole, Vermont’s contribution
    limits are the lowest in the Nation. Act 64 limits contribu
    tions to candidates for statewide office (including gover
    nor) to $200 per candidate per election. We have found no
    State that imposes a lower per election limit. Indeed, we
    have found only seven States that impose limits on contri
    butions to candidates for statewide office at or below $500
    per election, more than twice Act 64’s limit. Cf. Ariz. Rev.
    Stat. Ann. §16–905 (West Cum. Supp. 2005) ($760 per
    election cycle, or $380 per election, adjusted for inflation);
    Colo. Const., Art. XXVIII, §3 ($500 per election, adjusted
    for inflation); Fla. Stat. §106.08(1)(a) (2003) ($500 per
    election); Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., Tit. 21A, §1015(1) (1993)
    ($500 for governor, $250 for other statewide office, per
    election); Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 55, §7A (West Supp. 2006)
    ($500 per year, or $250 per election); Mont. Code Ann.
    §13–37–216(1)(a) (2005) ($500 for governor, $250 for other
    statewide office, per election); S. D. Codified Laws §12–25–
    1.1 (2004) ($1,000 per year, or $500 per election). We are
    aware of no State that imposes a limit on contributions
    from political parties to candidates for statewide office
                      Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)            17
    
                          Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    lower than Act 64’s $200 per candidate per election limit.
    Cf. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., Tit. 21A, §1015(1) (1993) (next
    lowest: $500 for contribution from party to candidate for
    governor, $250 for contribution from party to candidate for
    other statewide office, both per election). Similarly, we
    have found only three States that have limits on contribu
    tions to candidates for state legislature below Act 64’s
    $150 and $100 per election limits. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann.
    §16–905 (West Cum. Supp. 2005) ($296 per election cycle,
    or $148 per election); Mont. Code Ann. §13–37–216(1)(a)
    (2005) ($130 per election); S. D. Codified Laws §12–25–1.1
    (2004) ($250 per year, or $125 per election). And we are
    aware of no State that has a lower limit on contributions
    from political parties to state legislative candidates. Cf.
    Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., Tit. 21A, §1015(1) (1993) (next lowest:
    $250 per election).
       Finally, Vermont’s limit is well below the lowest limit
    this Court has previously upheld, the limit of $1,075 per
    election (adjusted for inflation every two years, see Mo.
    Rev. Stat. §130.032.2 (1998 Cum. Supp.)) for candidates
    for Missouri state auditor. Shrink, 
    528 U.S. 377
    . The
    comparable Vermont limit of roughly $200 per election,
    not adjusted for inflation, is less than one-sixth of Mis
    souri’s current inflation-adjusted limit ($1,275).
       We recognize that Vermont’s population is much smaller
    than Missouri’s. Indeed, Vermont is about one-ninth of
    the size of Missouri. Statistical Abstract 21 (2006). Thus,
    per citizen, Vermont’s limit is slightly more generous. As
    of 2006, the ratio of the contribution limit to the size of the
    constituency in Vermont is .00064, while Missouri’s ratio
    is .00044, 31% lower. Cf. App. 55 (doing same calculation
    in 2000).
       But this does not necessarily mean that Vermont’s
    limits are less objectionable than the limit upheld in
    Shrink. A campaign for state auditor is likely to be less
    costly than a campaign for governor; campaign costs do
    18                 RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    not automatically increase or decrease in precise propor
    tion to the size of an electoral district. See App. 66 (1998
    winning candidate for Vermont state auditor spent about
    $60,000; winning candidate for governor spent about
    $340,000); Opensecrets.org, The Big Picture, 2004 Cycle:
    Hot Races, available at http://www.opensecrets.org/
    bigpicture/hotraces.asp?cycle=2004 (as visited June 22,
    2006, and available in Clerk of Court’s case file) (U. S.
    Senate campaigns identified as competitive spend less per
    voter than U. S. House campaigns identified as competi
    tive). Moreover, Vermont’s limits, unlike Missouri’s lim
    its, apply in the same amounts to contributions made by
    political parties. Mo. Rev. Stat. §130.032.4 (2000) (enact
    ing limits on contributions from political parties to candi
    dates 10 times higher than limits on contributions from
    individuals). And, as we have said, Missouri’s (current)
    $1,275 per election limit, unlike Vermont’s $200 per elec
    tion limit, is indexed for inflation. See supra, at 17; see
    also Mo. Rev. Stat. §130.032.2 (2000).
        The factors we have mentioned offset any neutralizing
    force of population differences. At the very least, they
    make it difficult to treat Shrink’s (then) $1,075 limit as
    providing affirmative support for the lawfulness of Ver
    mont’s far lower levels. Cf. 528 U. S., at 404 (BREYER, J.,
    concurring) (The Shrink “limit . . . is low enough to raise
    . . . a [significant constitutional] question”). And even
    were that not so, Vermont’s failure to index for inflation
    means that Vermont’s levels would soon be far lower than
    Missouri’s regardless of the method of comparison.
        In sum, Act 64’s contribution limits are substantially
    lower than both the limits we have previously upheld and
    comparable limits in other States. These are danger signs
    that Act 64’s contribution limits may fall outside tolerable
    First Amendment limits. We consequently must examine
    the record independently and carefully to determine
    whether Act 64’s contribution limits are “closely drawn” to
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)          19
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    match the State’s interests.
                                   C
       Our examination of the record convinces us that, from a
    constitutional perspective, Act 64’s contribution limits are
    too restrictive. We reach this conclusion based not merely
    on the low dollar amounts of the limits themselves, but
    also on the statute’s effect on political parties and on
    volunteer activity in Vermont elections. Taken together,
    Act 64’s substantial restrictions on the ability of candi
    dates to raise the funds necessary to run a competitive
    election, on the ability of political parties to help their
    candidates get elected, and on the ability of individual
    citizens to volunteer their time to campaigns show that
    the Act is not closely drawn to meet its objectives. In
    particular, five factors together lead us to this decision.
       First, the record suggests, though it does not conclu
    sively prove, that Act 64’s contribution limits will signifi
    cantly restrict the amount of funding available for chal
    lengers to run competitive campaigns. For one thing, the
    petitioners’ expert, Clark Bensen, conducted a race-by
    race analysis of the 1998 legislative elections (the last to
    take place before Act 64 took effect) and concluded that
    Act 64’s contribution limits would have reduced the funds
    available in 1998 to Republican challengers in competitive
    races in amounts ranging from 18% to 53% of their total
    campaign income. See 3 Tr. 52–57 (estimating loss of 47%
    of funds for candidate Tully, 50% for Harvey, 53% for
    Welch, 19% for Bahre, 29% for Delaney, 36% for LaRoc
    que, 18% for Smith, and 31% for Brown).
       For another thing, the petitioners’ expert witnesses
    produced evidence and analysis showing that Vermont
    political parties (particularly the Republican Party) “tar
    get” their contributions to candidates in competitive races,
    that those contributions represent a significant amount of
    total candidate funding in such races, and that the contri
    20                  RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                          Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    bution limits will cut the parties’ contributions to competi
    tive races dramatically. See 1 id., at 189–190; 3 id., at 50–
    51; 8 id., at 139; 10 id., at 150; see also, e.g., Gierzynski &
    Breaux, The Role of Parties in Legislative Campaign
    Financing, 15 Am. Rev. Politics 171 (1994); Thompson,
    Cassie, & Jewell, A Sacred Cow or Just a Lot of Bull?
    Party and PAC Money in State Legislative Elections, 47
    Pol. Sci. Q. 223 (1994). Their statistics showed that the
    party contributions accounted for a significant percentage
    of the total campaign income in those races. And their
    studies showed that Act 64’s contribution limits would cut
    the party contributions by between 85% (for the legisla
    ture on average) and 99% (for governor).
       More specifically, Bensen pointed out that in 1998, the
    Republican Party made contributions to 19 Senate cam
    paigns in amounts that averaged $2,001, which on average
    represented 16% of the recipient campaign’s total income.
    3 Tr. 84. Act 64 would reduce these contributions to $300
    per campaign, an average reduction of about 85%. Ibid.
    The party contributed to 50 House campaigns in amounts
    averaging $787, which on average represented 28% of the
    recipient campaign’s total income. Id., at 85. Act 64
    would reduce these contributions to $200 per campaign,
    an average reduction of 74.5%. Ibid. And the party con
    tributed $40,600 to its gubernatorial candidate, an
    amount that accounted for about 16% of the candidate’s
    funding. Id., at 86. The Act would have reduced that
    contribution by 99%, to $400.
       Bensen added that 57% of all 1998 Senate campaigns
    and 30% of all House campaigns exceeded Act 64’s expen
    diture limits, which were enacted along with the statute’s
    contribution limits. 7 Trial Exhs. in No. 00–9159(L) etc.
    (CA2), Exh. 8, p. 2351. Moreover, 27% of all Senate cam
    paigns and 10% of all House campaigns spent more than
    double those limits. Ibid.
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)           21
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
       The respondents did not contest these figures. Rather,
    they presented evidence that focused, not upon strongly
    contested campaigns, but upon the funding amounts avail
    able for the average campaign. The respondents’ expert,
    Anthony Gierzynski, concluded, for example, that Act 64
    would have a “minimal effect on . . . candidates’ ability to
    raise funds.” App. 46. But he rested this conclusion upon
    his finding that “only a small proportion of” all contribu
    tions to all campaigns for state office “made during the
    last three elections would have been affected by the new
    limits.” Id., at 47; see also id., at 51 (discussing “average
    amount of revenues lost to the limits” in legislative races
    (emphasis added)); id., at 52–53 (discussing total number
    of campaigns receiving contributions over Act 64’s limit).
    The lower courts similarly relied almost exclusively on
    averages in assessing Act 64’s effect. See 
    118 F. Supp. 2d
    ,
    at 470 (“Approximately 88% to 96% of the campaign con
    tributions to recent House races were under $200” (empha
    sis added)); id., at 478 (“Expert testimony revealed that
    over the last three election cycles the percentage of all
    candidates’ contributions received over the contribution
    limits was less than 10%” (emphasis added)).
       The respondents’ evidence leaves the petitioners’ evi
    dence unrebutted in certain key respects. That is because
    the critical question concerns not simply the average effect
    of contribution limits on fundraising but, more impor
    tantly, the ability of a candidate running against an in
    cumbent officeholder to mount an effective challenge. And
    information about average races, rather than competitive
    races, is only distantly related to that question, because
    competitive races are likely to be far more expensive than
    the average race. See, e.g., N. Ornstein, T. Mann, & M.
    Malbin, Vital Statistics on Congress 2001–2002, pp. 89–98
    (2002) (data showing that spending in competitive elec
    tions, i.e., where incumbent wins with less than 60% of
    vote or where incumbent loses, is far greater than in most
    22                  RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    elections, where incumbent wins with more than 60% of
    the vote). We concede that the record does contain some
    anecdotal evidence supporting the respondents’ position,
    namely, testimony about a post-Act-64 competitive may
    oral campaign in Burlington, which suggests that a chal
    lenger can “amas[s] the resources necessary for effective
    advocacy,” Buckley, 424 U. S., at 21. But the facts of that
    particular election are not described in sufficient detail to
    offer a convincing refutation of the implication arising
    from the petitioners’ experts’ studies.
      Rather, the petitioners’ studies, taken together with low
    average Vermont campaign expenditures and the typically
    higher costs that a challenger must bear to overcome the
    name-recognition advantage enjoyed by an incumbent,
    raise a reasonable inference that the contribution limits
    are so low that they may pose a significant obstacle to
    candidates in competitive elections. Cf. Ornstein, supra,
    at 87–96 (In 2000 U. S. House and Senate elections, suc
    cessful challengers spent far more than the average candi
    date). Information about average races does not rebut
    that inference. Consequently, the inference amounts to
    one factor (among others) that here counts against the
    constitutional validity of the contribution limits.
      Second, Act 64’s insistence that political parties abide by
    exactly the same low contribution limits that apply to
    other contributors threatens harm to a particularly impor
    tant political right, the right to associate in a political
    party. See, e.g., California Democratic Party v. Jones, 
    530 U.S. 567
    , 574 (2000) (describing constitutional impor
    tance of associating in political parties to elect candi
    dates); Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 
    520 U.S. 351
    , 357 (1997) (same); Colorado I, 518 U. S., at 616
    (same); Norman v. Reed, 
    502 U.S. 279
    , 288 (1992) (same).
    Cf. Buckley, supra, at 20–22 (contribution limits constitute
    “only a marginal restriction” on First Amendment rights
                      Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)            23
    
                          Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    because contributor remains free to associate politically,
    e.g., in a political party, and “assist personally” in the
    party’s “efforts on behalf of candidates”).
       The Act applies its $200 to $400 limits—precisely the
    same limits it applies to an individual—to virtually all
    affiliates of a political party taken together as if they were
    a single contributor. Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 17, §2805(a)
    (2002). That means, for example, that the Vermont De
    mocratic Party, taken together with all its local affiliates,
    can make one contribution of at most $400 to the Democ
    ratic gubernatorial candidate, one contribution of at most
    $300 to a Democratic candidate for State Senate, and one
    contribution of at most $200 to a Democratic candidate for
    the State House of Representatives. The Act includes
    within these limits not only direct monetary contributions
    but also expenditures in kind: stamps, stationery, coffee,
    doughnuts, gasoline, campaign buttons, and so forth. See
    §2801(2). Indeed, it includes all party expenditures “in
    tended to promote the election of a specific candidate or
    group of candidates” as long as the candidate’s campaign
    “facilitate[s],” “solicit[s],” or “approve[s]” them. §§2809(a),
    (c). And a party expenditure that “primarily benefits six
    or fewer candidates who are associated with the” party is
    “presumed” to count against the party’s contribution
    limits. §2809(d).
       In addition to the negative effect on “amassing funds”
    that we have described, see supra, at 18–21, the Act would
    severely limit the ability of a party to assist its candidates’
    campaigns by engaging in coordinated spending on adver
    tising, candidate events, voter lists, mass mailings, even
    yard signs. And, to an unusual degree, it would discour
    age those who wish to contribute small amounts of money
    to a party, amounts that easily comply with individual
    contribution limits. Suppose that many individuals do not
    know Vermont legislative candidates personally, but wish
    24                 RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    to contribute, say, $20 or $40, to the State Republican
    Party, with the intent that the party use the money to
    help elect whichever candidates the party believes would
    best advance its ideals and interests—the basic object of a
    political party. Or, to take a more extreme example,
    imagine that 6,000 Vermont citizens each want to give $1
    to the State Democratic Party because, though unfamiliar
    with the details of the individual races, they would like to
    make a small financial contribution to the goal of electing
    a Democratic state legislature. And further imagine that
    the party believes control of the legislature will depend on
    the outcome of three (and only three) House races. The
    Act forbids the party from giving $2,000 (of the $6,000) to
    each of its candidates in those pivotal races. Indeed, it
    permits the party to give no more than $200 to each can
    didate, thereby thwarting the aims of the 6,000 donors
    from making a meaningful contribution to state politics by
    giving a small amount of money to the party they support.
    Thus, the Act would severely inhibit collective political
    activity by preventing a political party from using contri
    butions by small donors to provide meaningful assistance
    to any individual candidate. See supra, at 19.
       We recognize that we have previously upheld limits on
    contributions from political parties to candidates, in par
    ticular the federal limits on coordinated party spending.
    Colorado II, 
    533 U.S. 431
    . And we also recognize that any
    such limit will negatively affect to some extent the fund-
    allocating party function just described. But the contribu
    tion limits at issue in Colorado II were far less problem
    atic, for they were significantly higher than Act 64’s lim
    its. See id., at 438–439, and n. 3, 442, n. 7 (at least
    $67,560 in coordinated spending and $5,000 in direct cash
    contributions for U. S. Senate candidates, at least $33,780
    in coordinated spending and $5,000 in direct cash contri
    butions for U. S. House candidates). And they were much
    higher than the federal limits on contributions from indi
                      Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)             25
    
                          Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    viduals to candidates, thereby reflecting an effort by Con
    gress to balance (1) the need to allow individuals to par
    ticipate in the political process by contributing to political
    parties that help elect candidates with (2) the need to
    prevent the use of political parties “to circumvent contri
    bution limits that apply to individuals.” Id., at 453. Act
    64, by placing identical limits upon contributions to candi
    dates, whether made by an individual or by a political
    party, gives to the former consideration no weight at all.
       We consequently agree with the District Court that the
    Act’s contribution limits “would reduce the voice of politi
    cal parties” in Vermont to a “whisper.” 
    118 F. Supp. 2d
    , at
    487. And we count the special party-related harms that
    Act 64 threatens as a further factor weighing against the
    constitutional validity of the contribution limits.
       Third, the Act’s treatment of volunteer services aggra
    vates the problem. Like its federal statutory counterpart,
    the Act excludes from its definition of “contribution” all
    “services provided without compensation by individuals
    volunteering their time on behalf of a candidate.” Vt. Stat.
    Ann., Tit. 17, §2801(2) (2002). Cf. 
    2 U.S. C
    . §431(8)(B)(i)
    (2000 ed. and Supp. III) (similar exemption in federal
    campaign finance statute). But the Act does not exclude
    the expenses those volunteers incur, such as travel ex
    penses, in the course of campaign activities. The Act’s
    broad definitions would seem to count those expenses
    against the volunteer’s contribution limit, at least where
    the spending was facilitated or approved by campaign
    officials.    Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 17, §2801(3) (2002)
    (“[E]xpenditure” includes “anything of value, paid . . . for
    the purpose of influencing an election”); §§2809(a), (c) (Any
    “expenditure . . . intentionally facilitated by, solicited by or
    approved by the candidate” counts as a “contribution”).
    And, unlike the Federal Government’s treatment of com
    parable requirements, the State has not (insofar as we are
    26                 RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    aware) created an exception excluding such expenses. Cf.
    
    2 U.S. C
    . §§431(8)(B)(iv), (ix) (2000 ed. and Supp. III)
    (excluding from the definition of “contribution” volunteer
    travel expenses up to $1,000 and payment by political
    party for campaign materials used in connection with
    volunteer activities).
       The absence of some such exception may matter in the
    present context, where contribution limits are very low.
    That combination, low limits and no exceptions, means
    that a gubernatorial campaign volunteer who makes four
    or five round trips driving across the State performing
    volunteer activities coordinated with the campaign can
    find that he or she is near, or has surpassed, the contribu
    tion limit. So too will a volunteer who offers a campaign
    the use of her house along with coffee and doughnuts for a
    few dozen neighbors to meet the candidate, say, two or
    three times during a campaign. Cf. Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 17,
    §2809(d) (2002) (excluding expenditures for such activities
    only up to $100). Such supporters will have to keep care
    ful track of all miles driven, postage supplied (500 stamps
    equals $200), pencils and pads used, and so forth. And
    any carelessness in this respect can prove costly, perhaps
    generating a headline, “Campaign laws violated,” that
    works serious harm to the candidate.
       These sorts of problems are unlikely to affect the consti
    tutionality of a limit that is reasonably high. Cf. Buckley,
    424 U. S., at 36–37 (Coordinated expenditure by a volun
    teer “provides material financial assistance to a candi
    date,” and therefore “may properly be viewed as a contri
    bution”). But Act 64’s contribution limits are so low, and
    its definition of “contribution” so broad, that the Act may
    well impede a campaign’s ability effectively to use volun
    teers, thereby making it more difficult for individuals to
    associate in this way. Cf. id., at 22 (Federal contribution
    limits “leave the contributor free to become a member of
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)           27
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    any political association and to assist personally in the
    association’s efforts on behalf of candidates”). Again, the
    very low limits at issue help to transform differences in
    degree into difference in kind. And the likelihood of un
    justified interference in the present context is sufficiently
    great that we must consider the lack of tailoring in the
    Act’s definition of “contribution” as an added factor count
    ing against the constitutional validity of the contribution
    limits before us.
       Fourth, unlike the contribution limits we upheld in
    Shrink, see supra, at 16, Act 64’s contribution limits are
    not adjusted for inflation. Its limits decline in real value
    each year. Indeed, in real dollars the Act’s limits have
    already declined by about 20% ($200 in 2006 dollars has a
    real value of $160.66 in 1997 dollars). A failure to index
    limits means that limits which are already suspiciously
    low, see supra, at 14–17, will almost inevitably become too
    low over time. It means that future legislation will be
    necessary to stop that almost inevitable decline, and it
    thereby imposes the burden of preventing the decline upon
    incumbent legislators who may not diligently police the
    need for changes in limit levels to assure the adequate
    financing of electoral challenges.
       Fifth, we have found nowhere in the record any special
    justification that might warrant a contribution limit so
    low or so restrictive as to bring about the serious associa
    tional and expressive problems that we have described.
    Rather, the basic justifications the State has advanced in
    support of such limits are those present in Buckley. The
    record contains no indication that, for example, corruption
    (or its appearance) in Vermont is significantly more seri
    ous a matter than elsewhere. Indeed, other things being
    equal, one might reasonably believe that a contribution of
    say, $250 (or $450) to a candidate’s campaign was less
    likely to prove a corruptive force than the far larger con
    28                  RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    tributions at issue in the other campaign finance cases we
    have considered. See supra, at 15–17.
       These five sets of considerations, taken together, lead us
    to conclude that Act 64’s contribution limits are not nar
    rowly tailored. Rather, the Act burdens First Amendment
    interests by threatening to inhibit effective advocacy by
    those who seek election, particularly challengers; its con
    tribution limits mute the voice of political parties; they
    hamper participation in campaigns through volunteer
    activities; and they are not indexed for inflation. Vermont
    does not point to a legitimate statutory objective that
    might justify these special burdens. We understand that
    many, though not all, campaign finance regulations im
    pose certain of these burdens to some degree. We also
    understand the legitimate need for constitutional leeway
    in respect to legislative line-drawing. But our discussion
    indicates why we conclude that Act 64 in this respect
    nonetheless goes too far. It disproportionately burdens
    numerous First Amendment interests, and consequently,
    in our view, violates the First Amendment.
       We add that we do not believe it possible to sever some
    of the Act’s contribution limit provisions from others that
    might remain fully operative. See Champlin Refining Co.
    v. Corporation Comm’n of Okla., 
    286 U.S. 210
    , 234 (1932)
    (“invalid part may be dropped if what is left is fully opera
    tive as a law”); see also Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of
    Chippewa Indians, 
    526 U.S. 172
    , 191 (1999) (severability
    “essentially an inquiry into legislative intent”); Vt. Stat.
    Ann., Tit. 1, §215 (2003) (severability principles apply to
    Vermont statutes). To sever provisions to avoid constitu
    tional objection here would require us to write words into
    the statute (inflation indexing), or to leave gaping loop
    holes (no limits on party contributions), or to foresee which
    of many different possible ways the legislature might
    respond to the constitutional objections we have found.
                      Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)           29
    
                          Opinion of BREYER, J.
    
    Given these difficulties, we believe the Vermont Legisla
    ture would have intended us to set aside the statute’s
    contribution limits, leaving the legislature free to rewrite
    those provisions in light of the constitutional difficulties
    we have identified.
                                 IV
       We conclude that Act 64’s expenditure limits violate the
    First Amendment as interpreted in Buckley v. Valeo. We
    also conclude that the specific details of Act 64’s contribu
    tion limits require us to hold that those limits violate the
    First Amendment, for they burden First Amendment
    interests in a manner that is disproportionate to the pub
    lic purposes they were enacted to advance. Given our
    holding, we need not, and do not, examine the constitu
    tionality of the statute’s presumption that certain party
    expenditures are coordinated with a candidate. Vt. Stat.
    Ann., Tit. 17, §2809(d) (2002). Accordingly, the judgment
    of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the cases are
    remanded for further proceedings.
                                                 It is so ordered.
                      Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)             1
    
                           Opinion of ALITO, J.
    
    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
                              _________________
    
                   Nos. 04–1528, 04–1530 and 04–1697
                              _________________
    
    
              NEIL RANDALL, ET AL., PETITIONERS
    04–1528                   v.
                  WILLIAM H. SORRELL ET AL.
    
    VERMONT REPUBLICAN STATE COMMITTEE, ET AL.,
                   PETITIONERS
    04–1530              v.
             WILLIAM H. SORRELL ET AL.
    
        WILLIAM H. SORRELL, ET AL., PETITIONERS
    04–1697              v.
                 NEIL RANDALL ET AL.
    ON WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
               APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
                             [June 26, 2006]
    
      JUSTICE ALITO, concurring in part and concurring in the
    judgment.
      I concur in the judgment and join in JUSTICE BREYER’s
    opinion except for Parts II–B–1 and II–B–2. Contrary to
    the suggestion of those sections, respondents’ primary
    defense of Vermont’s expenditure limits is that those
    limits are consistent with Buckley v. Valeo, 
    424 U.S. 1
    (1976) (per curiam). See Brief for William H. Sorrell et al. in
    Nos. 04–1528 and 04–1530, pp. 15–28 (hereinafter Sorrell
    Brief); Brief for Vermont Public Interest Research Group
    et al. in Nos. 04–1528 and 04–1530, pp. 5–36 (hereinafter
    VPIRG Brief). Only as a backup argument, an afterthought
    almost, do respondents make a naked plea for us to “revisit
    Buckley.” Sorrell Brief 28; VPIRG Brief 36. This is fairly
    2                   RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                          Opinion of ALITO, J.
    
    incongruous, given that respondents’ defense of Vermont’s
    contribution limits rests squarely on Buckley and later
    decisions that built on Buckley, and yet respondents fail to
    explain why it would be appropriate to reexamine only one
    part of the holding in Buckley. More to the point, respon
    dents fail to discuss the doctrine of stare decisis or the
    Court’s cases elaborating on the circumstances in which it is
    appropriate to reconsider a prior constitutional decision.
    Indeed, only once in 99 pages of briefing from respondents
    do the words “stare decisis” appear, and that reference is in
    connection with contribution limits. See Sorrell Brief 31.
    Such an incomplete presentation is reason enough to refuse
    respondents’ invitation to reexamine Buckley. See United
    States v. International Business Machines Corp., 
    517 U.S. 843
    , 856 (1996).
      Whether or not a case can be made for reexamining
    Buckley in whole or in part, what matters is that respon
    dents do not do so here, and so I think it unnecessary to
    reach the issue.
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)          1
    
                  KENNEDY, J., concurring in judgment
    
    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
                             _________________
    
                  Nos. 04–1528, 04–1530 and 04–1697
                             _________________
    
    
              NEIL RANDALL, ET AL., PETITIONERS
    04–1528                   v.
                  WILLIAM H. SORRELL ET AL.
    
    VERMONT REPUBLICAN STATE COMMITTEE, ET AL.,
                   PETITIONERS
    04–1530              v.
             WILLIAM H. SORRELL ET AL.
    
        WILLIAM H. SORRELL, ET AL., PETITIONERS
    04–1697              v.
                 NEIL RANDALL ET AL.
    ON WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
               APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
                            [June 26, 2006]
    
       JUSTICE KENNEDY, concurring in the judgment.
       The Court decides the constitutionality of the limita
    tions Vermont places on campaign expenditures and con
    tributions. I agree that both limitations violate the First
    Amendment.
       As the plurality notes, our cases hold that expenditure
    limitations “place substantial and direct restrictions on
    the ability of candidates, citizens, and associations to
    engage in protected political expression, restrictions that
    the First Amendment cannot tolerate.” Buckley v. Valeo,
    
    424 U.S. 1
    , 58–59 (1976) (per curiam); see also Colorado
    Republican Federal Campaign Comm. v. Federal Election
    Comm’n, 
    518 U.S. 604
    , 618 (1996) (principal opinion);
    Federal Election Comm’n v. National Conservative Political
    2                  RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                  KENNEDY, J., concurring in judgment
    
    Action Comm., 
    470 U.S. 480
    , 497 (1985).
      The parties neither ask the Court to overrule Buckley in
    full nor challenge the level of scrutiny that decision ap
    plies to campaign contributions. The exacting scrutiny the
    plurality applies to expenditure limitations, however, is
    appropriate. For the reasons explained in the plurality
    opinion, respondents’ attempts to distinguish the present
    limitations from those we have invalidated are unavailing.
    The Court has upheld contribution limits that do “not
    come even close to passing any serious scrutiny.” Nixon v.
    Shrink Missouri Government PAC, 
    528 U.S. 377
    , 410
    (2000) (KENNEDY, J., dissenting). Those concerns aside,
    Vermont’s contributions, as the plurality’s detailed analy
    sis indicates, are even more stifling than the ones that
    survived Shrink’s unduly lenient review.
      The universe of campaign finance regulation is one this
    Court has in part created and in part permitted by its
    course of decisions. That new order may cause more prob
    lems than it solves. On a routine, operational level the
    present system requires us to explain why $200 is too
    restrictive a limit while $1,500 is not. Our own experience
    gives us little basis to make these judgments, and cer
    tainly no traditional or well-established body of law exists
    to offer guidance. On a broader, systemic level political
    parties have been denied basic First Amendment rights.
    See, e.g., McConnell v. Federal Election Comm’n, 
    540 U.S. 93
    , 286–287, 313 (2003) (KENNEDY, J., concurring in judg
    ment in part and dissenting in part). Entering to fill the
    void have been new entities such as political action com
    mittees, which are as much the creatures of law as of
    traditional forces of speech and association. Those entities
    can manipulate the system and attract their own elite
    power brokers, who operate in ways obscure to the ordi
    nary citizen.
      Viewed within the legal universe we have ratified and
    helped create, the result the plurality reaches is correct;
                    Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)         3
    
                 KENNEDY, J., concurring in judgment
    
    given my own skepticism regarding that system and its
    operation, however, it seems to me appropriate to concur
    only in the judgment.
                          Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)                      1
    
                       THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment
    
    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
                                   _________________
    
                      Nos. 04–1528, 04–1530 and 04–1697
                                   _________________
    
    
               NEIL RANDALL, ET AL., PETITIONERS
    04–1528                    v.
                   WILLIAM H. SORRELL ET AL.
    
    VERMONT REPUBLICAN STATE COMMITTEE, ET AL.,
                   PETITIONERS
    04–1530              v.
             WILLIAM H. SORRELL ET AL.
    
        WILLIAM H. SORRELL, ET AL., PETITIONERS
    04–1697              v.
                 NEIL RANDALL ET AL.
    ON WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
               APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
                                 [June 26, 2006]
    
      JUSTICE THOMAS, with whom JUSTICE SCALIA joins,
    concurring in the judgment.
      Although I agree with the plurality that Vt. Stat. Ann.,
    Tit. 17, §2801 et seq. (2002) (Act 64), is unconstitutional, I
    disagree with its rationale for striking down that statute.
    Invoking stare decisis, the plurality rejects the invitation
    to overrule Buckley v. Valeo, 
    424 U.S. 1
     (1976) (per cu
    riam).1 It then applies Buckley to invalidate the expendi
    ——————
       1 Although the plurality’s stare decisis analysis is limited to Buckley’s
    
    treatment of expenditure limitations, its reasoning cannot be so con
    fined, and would apply equally to Buckley’s standard for evaluating
    contribution limits. See ante, at 10 (noting, inter alia, that Buckley has
    engendered “considerable reliance” that would be “dramatically under
    mine[d]” by overruling it now).
    2                   RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                   THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment
    
    ture limitations and, less persuasively, the contribution
    limitations. I continue to believe that Buckley provides
    insufficient protection to political speech, the core of the
    First Amendment. The illegitimacy of Buckley is further
    underscored by the continuing inability of the Court (and
    the plurality here) to apply Buckley in a coherent and
    principled fashion. As a result, stare decisis should pose
    no bar to overruling Buckley and replacing it with a stan
    dard faithful to the First Amendment. Accordingly, I
    concur only in the judgment.
                                   I
       I adhere to my view that this Court erred in Buckley
    when it distinguished between contribution and expendi
    ture limits, finding the former to be a less severe in
    fringement on First Amendment rights. See Nixon v.
    Shrink Missouri Government PAC, 
    528 U.S. 377
    , 410–418
    (2000) (dissenting opinion) (Shrink); Federal Election
    Comm’n v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign
    Comm., 
    533 U.S. 431
    , 465–466 (2001) (Colorado II) (dis
    senting opinion); Colorado Republican Federal Campaign
    Comm. v. Federal Election Comm’n, 
    518 U.S. 604
    , 635–
    644 (1996) (Colorado I) (opinion concurring in judgment
    and dissenting in part). “[U]nlike the Buckley Court, I
    believe that contribution limits infringe as directly and as
    seriously upon freedom of political expression and associa
    tion as do expenditure limits.” Id., at 640. The Buckley
    Court distinguished contributions from expenditures
    based on the presence of an intermediary between a con
    tributor and the speech eventually produced. But that
    reliance is misguided, given that “[e]ven in the case of a
    direct expenditure, there is usually some go-between that
    facilitates the dissemination of the spender’s message.”
    Colorado I, supra, at 638–639; Shrink, supra, at 413–418
    (Thomas, J., dissenting). Likewise, Buckley’s suggestion
    that contribution caps only marginally restrict speech,
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)            3
    
                   THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment
    
    because “[a] contribution serves as a general expression of
    support for the candidate and his views, but does not
    communicate the underlying basis for the support,” 424
    U. S., at 21, even if descriptively accurate, does not sup
    port restrictions on contributions. After all, statements of
    general support are as deserving of constitutional protec
    tion as those that communicate specific reasons for that
    support. Colorado I, supra, at 639–640 (opinion of Tho
    mas, J.); Shrink, supra, at 414–415, and n. 3 (Thomas, J.,
    dissenting). Accordingly, I would overrule Buckley and
    subject both the contribution and expenditure restrictions
    of Act 64 to strict scrutiny, which they would fail. See
    Colorado I, supra, at 640–641 (opinion of Thomas, J.) (“I
    am convinced that under traditional strict scrutiny, broad
    prophylactic caps on both spending and giving in the
    political process . . . are unconstitutional”). See also Colo
    rado II, supra, at 465–466 (Thomas, J., dissenting).
                                  II
       The plurality opinion, far from making the case for
    Buckley as a rule of law, itself demonstrates that Buckley’s
    limited scrutiny of contribution limits is “insusceptible of
    principled application,” and accordingly is not entitled to
    stare decisis effect. See BMW of North America, Inc. v.
    Gore, 
    517 U.S. 559
    , 599 (1996) (SCALIA, J., dissenting).
    Indeed, “ ‘when governing decisions are unworkable or are
    badly reasoned, this Court has never felt constrained to
    follow precedent.’ ” Vieth v. Jubelirer, 
    541 U.S. 267
    , 306
    (2004) (plurality opinion) (quoting Payne v. Tennessee, 
    501 U.S. 808
    , 827 (1991); internal quotation marks omitted).
    Today’s newly minted, multifactor test, particularly when
    read in combination with the Court’s decision in Shrink,
    supra, places this Court in the position of addressing the
    propriety of regulations of political speech based upon
    little more than its impression of the appropriate limits.
       The plurality sets forth what appears to be a two-step
    4                   RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                   THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment
    
    process for evaluating the validity of contribution limits:
    First, determine whether there are “danger signs” in a
    particular case that the limits are too low; and, second,
    use “independent judicial judgment” to “review the record
    independently and carefully with an eye towards assessing
    the statute’s ‘tailoring,’ that is, towards assessing the
    proportionality of the restrictions.” Ante, at 14. Neither
    step of this test can be reduced to a workable inquiry to be
    performed by States attempting to comply with this
    Court’s jurisprudence.
        As to the first step, it is entirely unclear how to deter
    mine whether limits are so low as to constitute “danger
    signs” that require a court to “examine the record inde
    pendently and carefully.” Ante, at 18. The plurality
    points to several aspects of the Act that support its conclu
    sion that such signs are present here: (1) the limits are set
    per election cycle, rather than divided between primary
    and general elections; (2) the limits apply to contributions
    from political parties; (3) the limits are the lowest in the
    Nation; and (4) the limits are below those we have previ
    ously upheld. Ante, at 15–19.
        The first two elements of the Act are indeed constitu
    tionally problematic, but they have no bearing on whether
    the contribution limits are too low. The first substantially
    advantages candidates in a general election who did not
    face a serious primary challenge. In practice, this restric
    tion will generally suppress more speech by challengers
    than by incumbents, without serving the interests the
    Court has recognized as compelling, i.e., the prevention of
    corruption or the appearance thereof. Cf. B. Smith, Un
    free Speech: The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform 50–51
    (2001) (hereinafter Smith) (describing the ability of in
    cumbents to amass money early, discouraging serious
    challengers from entering a race). The second element has
    no relation to these compelling interests either, given that
    “ ‘[t]he very aim of a political party is to influence its can
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)            5
    
                   THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment
    
    didate’s stance on issues and, if the candidate takes office
    or is reelected, his votes.’ ” Colorado II, 533 U. S., at 476
    (Thomas, J., dissenting) (citing Colorado I, 518 U. S., at
    646 (Thomas, J., concurring in judgment and dissenting in
    part)). That these provisions are unconstitutional, how
    ever, does not make the contribution limits on individuals
    unconstitutionally low.
       We are left, then, with two reasons to scrutinize Act 64’s
    limitations: They are lower than those of other States, and
    lower than those we have upheld in previous cases, i.e.,
    Buckley and Shrink. But the relative limits of other
    States cannot be the key factor, for such considerations
    are nothing more than a moving target. After all, if the
    Vermont Legislature simply persuaded several other
    States to lower their contribution limits to parallel Act 64,
    then the Act, which would still “significantly restrict the
    amount of funding available for challengers to run com
    petitive campaigns,” ante, at 19, would survive this aspect
    of the majority’s proposed test.
       Nor is the relationship of these limits to those in Buck
    ley and Shrink a critical fact. In Shrink, the Court specifi
    cally determined that Buckley did not “set a minimum
    constitutional threshold for contribution limits,” rejecting
    such a contention as a “fundamental misunderstanding of
    what we held.” 528 U. S., at 396. The plurality’s current
    treatment of the limits in Shrink as a constitutional
    minimum, or at least as limits below which “danger signs”
    are present, thus cannot be reconciled with Shrink itself.
       Having nevertheless concluded that these “danger
    signs” require us to scrutinize the record, the plurality
    embarks on an odd review of the contribution limits, com
    bining unrelated factors to determine that, “taken to
    gether,” ante, at 19, the restrictions of Act 64 are not
    closely drawn to meet their objectives. Two of these fac
    tors simply cause the already stringent limitations on
    individual contributions to be more stringent; i.e., volun
    6                        RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                        THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment
    
    teer services count toward the contribution limit, ante, at
    25–27, and the limits do not change with inflation, so they
    will become even more stringent in time, ante, at 27.2
    While these characteristics confirm the plurality’s impres
    sion that these limits are, indeed, quite low, they have
    nothing whatsoever to do with whether the restrictions
    are closely drawn to meet their objectives. The plurality
    would presumably uphold a limit on contributions of $1
    million, even if volunteer services counted toward that
    limit and the limit did not change with inflation. Charac
    terizing these facts as shifting Act 64’s limits from “suspi
    ciously low” to “too low,” ibid., provides no insight on how
    to draw this constitutional line.
       The plurality next departs from the general applicability
    of the contribution limits entirely, and notes the substan
    tial interference of the contribution limits with the activi
    ties of parties. Again, I do not dispute that the limitation
    on party contributions is unconstitutional; as I have previ
    ously noted, such limitations are unconstitutional even
    under Buckley. See Colorado II, supra, at 476–477. But it
    is entirely unclear why the mere fact that the “suspi
    ciously low” contribution limits also apply to parties
    should mean that those limits are in fact “too low” when
    they are applied to individuals. If the limits impermissi
    bly intrude upon the associational rights of parties, then
    the limits are unconstitutional as applied to parties. But
    ——————
        2 Ironically,
                   the plurality is troubled by the fact that the absence of a
    provision adjusting the limits for inflation means that the real value of
    the limits will decline, and that “the burden of preventing the decline
    [lies] upon incumbent legislators who may not diligently police the need
    for changes in limit levels to assure the adequate financing of electoral
    challenges.” Ante, at 27. It is impossible to square this wariness of
    incumbents’ disinclination to enact future laws protecting challengers
    with the plurality’s deference to those same incumbents when they
    make empirical judgments regarding “the precise restriction necessary
    to carry out the statute’s legitimate objectives” in the first place. Ante,
    at 14.
                          Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)                      7
    
                       THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment
    
    limits on individuals cannot be transformed from permis
    sible to too low simply because they also apply to political
    parties.3
       We are left, then, with two arguably relevant points to
    transform these contribution limits from the realm of the
    “suspicious” to the realm of the impermissible. First, the
    limits affect a substantial portion of the money given to
    challengers. But contribution limits always dispropor
    tionately burden challengers, who often have smaller
    bases of support than incumbents. See Smith, 66–70. In
    Shrink, the Court expressly rejected the argument that a
    negative impact on a challenger could render a contribu
    tion limit invalid, relying on the same sort of analysis of
    the “average effect of contribution limits on fundraising,”
    ante, at 21, that the plurality today rejects. See 528 U. S.,
    at 396 (noting that 97.62% of all contributors for state
    auditor made contributions of less than $2,000, and that
    “[e]ven if we were to assume that the contribution limits
    affected respondent[’s] ability to wage a competitive cam
    paign . . . a showing of one affected individual does not
    point up a system of suppressed political advocacy “that
    ——————
        3 The plurality’s connection of these two factors implies that it is con
    
    cerned not with the impact on the speech of contributors, but solely
    with the speech of candidates, for whom the two facts might be con
    nected. See ante, at 19. Indeed, the plurality notably omits interference
    with participation in campaigns through monetary contributions from
    the list of reasons the Act is unconstitutional. See id., at 19, 27. But
    contributors, too, have a right to free speech. See Colorado I 
    518 U.S. 604
    , 637 (1996) (THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment and dissenting in
    part) (“If an individual is limited in the amount of resources he can
    contribute to the pool, he is most certainly limited in his ability to
    associate for purposes of effective advocacy”). Even Buckley v. Valeo,
    
    424 U.S. 1
     (1976) (per curiam), recognizes that contribution limits
    restrict the free speech of contributors, even if it understates the
    significance of this restriction. See id., at 20–21 (“[A] limitation upon
    the amount that any one person or group may contribute to a candidate
    . . . entails only a marginal restriction upon the contributor’s ability to
    engage in free communication”).
    8                   RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                   THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment
    
    would be unconstitutional under Buckley”). Cf. id., at 420
    (Thomas, J., dissenting) (“The Court in Buckley provided
    no basis for suppressing the speech of an individual candi
    date simply because other candidates (or candidates in the
    aggregate) may succeed in reaching the voting public . . .
    any such reasoning would fly in the face of the premise of
    our political system—liberty vested in individual hands
    safeguards the functioning of our democracy”). An indi
    vidual’s First Amendment right is infringed whether his
    speech is decreased by 5% or 95%, and whether he suffers
    alone or shares his violation with his fellow citizens.
    Certainly, the First Amendment does not authorize us to
    judge whether a restriction of political speech imposes a
    sufficiently severe disadvantage on challengers that a
    candidate should be able to complain. See Shrink, supra,
    at 427 (Thomas, J., dissenting) (“[C]ourts have no yard
    stick by which to judge the proper amount and effective
    ness of campaign speech”).
       The plurality’s final justification fares no better. Argu
    ing that Vermont offers no justification for imposing a
    limit lower than that imposed in any other State is simply
    another way of saying that the benchmark for whether a
    contribution limitation is constitutional is what other
    States have imposed. As I have noted above, supra, at 6,
    tying individuals’ First Amendment rights to the presence
    or absence of similar laws in other States is inconsistent
    with the First Amendment.
       The plurality recognizes that the burdens which lead it
    to invalidate Act 64’s contribution limits are present under
    “many, though not all, campaign finance regulations.”
    Ante, at 28. As a result, the plurality does not purport to
    offer any single touchstone for evaluating the constitu
    tionality of such laws. Indeed, its discussion offers noth
    ing resembling a rule at all. From all appearances, the
    plurality simply looked at these limits and said, in its
    “independent judicial judgment,” ante, at 14, that they are
                      Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)             9
    
                   THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment
    
    too low. The atmospherics—whether they vary with infla
    tion, whether they are as high as those in other States or
    those in Shrink and Buckley, whether they apply to volun
    teer activities and parties—no doubt help contribute to the
    plurality’s sentiment. But a feeling does not amount to a
    workable rule of law.
       This is not to say that the plurality errs in concluding
    that these limits are too low to satisfy even Buckley’s
    lenient standard. Indeed, it is almost impossible to imag
    ine that any legislator would ever find his scruples over
    come by a $201 donation. See Shrink, supra, at 425
    (Thomas, J., dissenting) (“I cannot fathom how a $251
    contribution could pose a substantial risk of ‘secur[ing] a
    political quid pro quo’ ” (quoting Buckley, 424 U. S., at 26)).
    And the statistics relied on by the plurality indeed reveal
    that substantial resources will be lost by candidates run
    ning campaigns under these limits. See ante, at 19–22.
    Given that these contribution limits severely impinge on
    the ability of candidates to run campaigns and on the
    ability of citizens to contribute to campaigns, and do so
    without any demonstrable need to avoid corruption, they
    cannot possibly satisfy even Buckley’s ambiguous level of
    scrutiny.
       But the plurality’s determination that this statute
    clearly lies on the impermissible side of the constitutional
    line gives no assistance in drawing this line, and it is clear
    that no such line can be drawn rationally. There is simply
    no way to calculate just how much money a person would
    need to receive before he would be corrupt or perceived to
    be corrupt (and such a calculation would undoubtedly vary
    by person). Likewise, there is no meaningful way of dis
    cerning just how many resources must be lost before
    speech is “disproportionately burden[ed].” Ante, at 28.
    Buckley, as the plurality has applied it, gives us license to
    simply strike down any limits that just seem to be too
    stringent, and to uphold the rest. The First Amendment
    10                    RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                     THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment
    
    does not grant us this authority. Buckley provides no
    consistent protection to the core of the First Amendment,
    and must be overruled.
                               *    *     * 
    
         For these reasons, I concur only in the judgment. 
    
                      Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)             1
    
                         STEVENS, J., dissenting
    
    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
                              _________________
    
                   Nos. 04–1528, 04–1530 and 04–1697
                              _________________
    
    
              NEIL RANDALL, ET AL., PETITIONERS
    04–1528                   v.
                  WILLIAM H. SORRELL ET AL.
    
    VERMONT REPUBLICAN STATE COMMITTEE, ET AL.,
                   PETITIONERS
    04–1530              v.
             WILLIAM H. SORRELL ET AL.
    
        WILLIAM H. SORRELL, ET AL., PETITIONERS
    04–1697              v.
                 NEIL RANDALL ET AL.
    ON WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
               APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
                             [June 26, 2006]
    
      JUSTICE STEVENS, dissenting.
      JUSTICE BREYER and JUSTICE SOUTER debate whether
    the per curiam decision in Buckley v. Valeo, 
    424 U.S. 1
    (1976), forecloses any constitutional limitations on candi
    date expenditures. This is plainly an issue on which
    reasonable minds can disagree. The Buckley Court never
    explicitly addressed whether the pernicious effects of
    endless fundraising can serve as a compelling state inter
    est that justifies expenditure limits, post, at 2 (SOUTER, J.,
    dissenting), yet its silence, in light of the record before it,
    suggests that it implicitly treated this proposed interest
    insufficient, ante, at 11 (plurality opinion of BREYER, J.).
    Assuming this to be true, however, I am convinced that
    Buckley’s holding on expenditure limits is wrong, and that
    2                   RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                        STEVENS, J., dissenting
    
    the time has come to overrule it.
        I have not reached this conclusion lightly. As JUSTICE
    BREYER correctly observes, stare decisis is a principle of
    “ ‘fundamental importance.’ ” Ante, at 9. But it is not an
    inexorable command, and several factors, taken together,
    provide special justification for revisiting the constitution
    ality of statutory limits on candidate expenditures.
        To begin with, Buckley’s holding on expenditure limits
    itself upset a long-established practice. For the preceding
    65 years, congressional races had been subject to statutory
    limits on both expenditures and contributions. See 37
    Stat. 28; Federal Corrupt Practices Act of 1925, 43 Stat.
    1073; Federal Election Campaign Finance Act of 1971, 86
    Stat. 5; Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of
    1974, 88 Stat. 1263; United States v. Automobile Workers,
    
    352 U.S. 567
    , 575–576 (1957); McConnell v. Federal Elec
    tion Comm’n, 
    540 U.S. 93
    , 115–117 (2003). As the Court of
    Appeals had recognized in Buckley v. Valeo, 
    519 F.2d 821
    ,
    859 (CADC 1975) (en banc) (per curiam), our earlier juris
    prudence provided solid support for treating these limits as
    permissible regulations of conduct rather than speech. Ibid.
    (discussing Burroughs v. United States, 
    290 U.S. 534
    (1934), and United States v. Harriss, 
    347 U.S. 612
     (1954));
    see also 
    519 F. 2d
    , at 841, and n. 41, 851, and n. 68. While
    Buckley’s holding on contribution limits was consistent with
    this backdrop, its holding on expenditure limits “involve[d]
    collision with a prior doctrine more embracing in its scope,
    intrinsically sounder, and verified by experience,” Helvering
    v. Hallock, 
    309 U.S. 106
    , 119 (1940).
        There are further reasons for reexamining Buckley’s
    holding on candidate expenditure limits that do not apply
    to its holding on candidate contribution limits. Although
    we have subsequently reiterated the line Buckley drew
    between these two types of limits, we have done so primar
    ily in cases affirming the validity of contribution limits or
    their functional equivalents. See McConnell, 540 U. S., at
                         Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)                     3
    
                             STEVENS, J., dissenting
    
    134–138; Federal Election Comm’n v. Colorado Republican
    Federal Campaign Comm., 
    533 U.S. 431
    , 440–442 (2001);
    Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC, 
    528 U.S. 377
    ,
    386–387 (2000); cf. California Medical Assn. v. Federal
    Election Comm’n, 
    453 U.S. 182
    , 194–195 (1981) (plurality
    opinion). In contrast, these are our first post-Buckley cases
    that raise the constitutionality of expenditure limits on the
    amounts that candidates for office may spend on their own
    campaigns.1
       Accordingly, while we have explicitly recognized the
    importance of stare decisis in the context of Buckley’s
    holding on contribution limits, McConnell, 540 U. S., at
    137–138, we have never before done so with regard to its
    rejection of expenditure limits. And McConnell’s recogni
    tion rested largely on an interest specific to Buckley’s
    holding on contribution limits. There, we stated that
    “[c]onsiderations of stare decisis, buttressed by the respect
    that the Legislative and Judicial Branches owe to one
    another, provide additional powerful reasons for adhering
    to the analysis of contribution limits that the Court has
    consistently followed since Buckley was decided.” 540
    U. S., at 137–138 (emphasis added). This powerful but
    tress is absent from Buckley’s refusal to defer to the Legis
    lature’s judgment as to the importance of expenditure
    limits. Relatedly, while Congress and state legislatures
    have long relied on Buckley’s authorization of contribution
    limits, Buckley’s rejection of expenditure limits “has not
    induced [comparable] detrimental reliance,” Lawrence v.
    ——————
      1 We have, of course, invalidated limits on independent expenditures by
    third persons. Federal Election Comm’n v. National Conservative Political
    Action Comm., 
    470 U.S. 480
     (1985); Colorado Republican Federal Cam
    paign Comm. v. Federal Election Comm’n, 
    518 U.S. 604
     (1996); cf. Federal
    Election Comm’n v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Inc., 
    479 U.S. 238
    (1986). In these cases the principal parties accepted Buckley’s holding on
    candidate expenditure limits and gave us no cause to consider how much
    weight to give stare decisis.
    4                   RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         STEVENS, J., dissenting
    
    Texas, 
    539 U.S. 558
    , 577 (2003). See also Vieth v. Jube
    lirer, 
    541 U.S. 267
    , 306 (2004) (plurality opinion) (noting
    lessened stare decisis concern where “it is hard to imagine
    how any action taken in reliance upon [the prior case]
    could conceivably be frustrated”).
       Perhaps in partial recognition of these points, Justice
    White refused to abandon his opposition to Buckley’s
    holding on expenditure limits.        See Federal Election
    Comm’n v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Inc., 
    479 U.S. 238
    , 271 (1986); Federal Election Comm’n v. National
    Conservative Political Action Comm., 
    470 U.S. 480
    , 507–512
    (1985) (dissenting opinion). He believed Buckley deeply
    wrong on this issue because it confused “the identification of
    speech with its antecedents.” National Conservative Politi
    cal Action Comm., 470 U. S., at 508. Over the course of his
    steadfast campaign, he converted at least one other Buck
    ley participant to this position, see National Conservative
    Political Action Comm., 470 U. S., at 518–521 (Marshall,
    J., dissenting), and his reasoning has since persuaded
    me—the nonparticipating Member of the Buckley Court—
    as well.
       As Justice White recognized, it is quite wrong to equate
    money and speech. Buckley, 424 U. S., at 263 (opinion
    concurring in part and dissenting in part). To the
    contrary,
           “The burden on actual speech imposed by limita
        tions on the spending of money is minimal and indi
        rect. All rights of direct political expression and advo
        cacy are retained. Even under the campaign laws as
        originally enacted, everyone was free to spend as
        much as they chose to amplify their views on general
        political issues, just not specific candidates. The re
        strictions, to the extent they do affect speech, are
        viewpoint-neutral and indicate no hostility to the
        speech itself or its effects.” National Conservative Po
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)            5
    
                        STEVENS, J., dissenting
    
        litical Action Comm., 470 U. S., at 508–509 (White, J.,
        dissenting).
    Accordingly, these limits on expenditures are far more
    akin to time, place, and manner restrictions than to re
    strictions on the content of speech. Like Justice White, I
    would uphold them “so long as the purposes they serve are
    legitimate and sufficiently substantial.” Buckley, 424
    U. S., at 264.
      Buckley’s conclusion to the contrary relied on the follow
    ing oft-quoted metaphor:
         “Being free to engage in unlimited political expression
         subject to a ceiling on expenditures is like being free
         to drive an automobile as far and as often as one de
         sires on a single tank of gasoline.” Id., at 19, n. 18.
    But, of course, while a car cannot run without fuel, a
    candidate can speak without spending money. And while
    a car can only travel so many miles per gallon, there is no
    limit on the number of speeches or interviews a candidate
    may give on a limited budget. Moreover, provided that
    this budget is above a certain threshold, a candidate can
    exercise due care to ensure that her message reaches all
    voters. Just as a driver need not use a Hummer to reach
    her destination, so a candidate need not flood the airways
    with ceaseless sound-bites of trivial information in order
    to provide voters with reasons to support her.
       Indeed, the examples of effective speech in the political
    arena that did not depend on any significant expenditure
    by the campaigner are legion. It was the content of Wil
    liam Jennings Bryan’s comments on the “Cross of Gold”—
    and William McKinley’s responses delivered from his front
    porch in Canton, Ohio—rather than any expenditure of
    money that appealed to their cost-free audiences. Neither
    Abraham Lincoln nor John F. Kennedy paid for the oppor
    tunity to engage in the debates with Stephen Douglas and
    Richard Nixon that may well have determined the out
    6                      RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                            STEVENS, J., dissenting
    
    comes of Presidential elections. When the seasoned cam
    paigners who were Members of the Congress that en
    dorsed the expenditure limits in the Federal Election
    Campaign Act Amendments of 1974 concluded that a
    modest budget would not preclude them from effectively
    communicating with the electorate, they necessarily re
    jected the Buckley metaphor.
      These campaigners also identified significant govern
    ment interests favoring the imposition of expenditure
    limits. Not only do these limits serve as an important
    complement to corruption-reducing contribution limits, see
    id., at 264 (opinion of White, J.), but they also “protect
    equal access to the political arena, [and] free candidates
    and their staffs from the interminable burden of fundrais
    ing.” Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Comm. v.
    Federal Election Comm’n, 
    518 U.S. 604
    , 649–650 (1996)
    (STEVENS, J., dissenting). These last two interests are
    particularly acute. When campaign costs are so high that
    only the rich have the reach to throw their hats into the
    ring, we fail “to protect the political process from undue
    influence of large aggregations of capital and to promote
    individual responsibility for democratic government.”
    Automobile Workers, 352 U. S., at 590. States have recog
    nized this problem,2 but Buckley’s perceived ban on expendi
    ture limits severely limits their options in dealing with it.
      The interest in freeing candidates from the fundraising
    straitjacket is even more compelling. Without expenditure
    limits, fundraising devours the time and attention of
    political leaders, leaving them too busy to handle their
    public responsibilities effectively. That fact was well
    recognized by backers of the legislation reviewed in Buck
    ley, by the Court of Appeals judges who voted to uphold
    ——————
      2 See Brief for State of Connecticut et al. as Amici Curiae 16–17 (cit
    
    ing Ariz. Rev. Stat. §16–940(B)(7); Colo. Rev. Stat. §1–45–102; Neb.
    Rev. Stat. §32-1602(1); and R. I. Gen. Laws §17–25–18).
                          Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)                     7
    
                             STEVENS, J., dissenting
    
    the expenditure limitations in that statute, and by Justice
    White—who not incidentally had personal experience as
    an active participant in a Presidential campaign. Cf. 
    519 F. 2d
    , at 838 (and citations to legislative history contained
    therein); 424 U. S., at 265 (opinion of White, J.). The
    validity of their judgment has surely been confirmed by
    the mountains of evidence that has been accumulated in
    recent years concerning the time that elected officials
    spend raising money for future campaigns and the adverse
    effect of fundraising on the performance of their official
    duties.3
      Additionally, there is no convincing evidence that these
    important interests favoring expenditure limits are fronts
    for incumbency protection. Buckley’s cursory suggestion to
    the contrary, id., at 56–57, failed to take into account the
    mixed evidence before it on this issue. See 
    519 F. 2d
    , at
    861, 862 (detailing how “[t]he material available to the
    court looks both ways”). And only by “permit[ting] States
    nationwide to experiment with these critically needed
    reforms,”—as 18 States urge us to do—will we enable
    further research on how expenditure limits relate to our
    incumbent reelection rates. See Brief for State of Con
    necticut et al. as Amici Curiae 3.4 In the meantime, a
    ——————
      3 See, e.g., Alexander, Let Them Do Their Jobs: The Compelling Gov
    ernment Interest in Protecting the Time of Candidates and Elected
    Officials, 37 Loyola U. Chi. L. J. 669, 673–683 (2006); see also post, at 3
    (SOUTER, J., dissenting).
      4 Indeed, the example of the city of Albuquerque suggests that con
    
    cerns about incumbent entrenchment are unfounded. In 1974, the city
    set expenditure limits on municipal elections. A 2-year interlude aside,
    these limits applied until 2001, when they were successfully challenged
    by municipal candidates. Homans v. Albuquerque, 
    217 F. Supp. 2d 1197
    , 1200 (NM 2002), aff’d, 
    366 F.3d 900
     (CA10), cert. denied, 543
    U. S 1002 (2004). In its findings of fact, the Federal District Court
    determined that “[n]ationwide, eighty-eight percent (88%) of incumbent
    Mayors successfully sought reelection in 1999. In contrast, since 1974,
    the City has had a zero percent (0%) success rate for Mayors seeking
    8                      RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                            STEVENS, J., dissenting
    
    legislative judgment that “enough is enough” should com
    mand the greatest possible deference from judges inter
    preting a constitutional provision that, at best, has an
    indirect relationship to activity that affects the quantity—
    rather than the quality or the content—of repetitive
    speech in the marketplace of ideas.
      One final point bears mention. Neither the opinions in
    Buckley nor those that form today’s cacophony pay heed to
    how the Framers would have viewed candidate expendi
    ture limits. This is not an unprincipled approach, as the
    historical context is “usually relevant but not necessarily
    dispositive.” Georgia v. Randolph, 
    547 U.S.
    ___, ___
    (2006) (slip op., at 1) (STEVENS, J., concurring). This is
    particularly true of contexts that are so different. At the
    time of the framing the accepted posture of the leading
    candidates was one of modesty, acknowledging a willingness
    to serve rather than a desire to compete. Speculation about
    how the Framers would have legislated if they had foreseen
    the era of televised sound-bites thus cannot provide us with
    definitive answers.
      Nevertheless, I am firmly persuaded that the Framers
    would have been appalled by the impact of modern fund-
    raising practices on the ability of elected officials to per
    form their public responsibilities. I think they would have
    viewed federal statutes limiting the amount of money that
    congressional candidates might spend in future elections
    ——————
    reelection.” 
    217 F. Supp. 2d
    , at 1200 (citation omitted). The court
    further concluded that the “system of unlimited spending has deleteri
    ous effects on the competitiveness of elections because it gives incum
    bent candidates an electoral advantage.” Ibid. While far from conclu
    sive, this example cuts against the view that there is a slam-dunk
    correlation between expenditure limits and incumbent advantage. See
    also Brief for Center for Democracy and Election Management at
    American University as Amicus Curiae (concluding that Canada, the
    United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Malta—all of which have campaign
    expenditure limits—have more electoral competition than the United
    States, Jamaica, Ireland, and Australia—all of which lack such limits).
                          Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)                     9
    
                             STEVENS, J., dissenting
    
    as well within Congress’ authority.5 And they surely
    would not have expected judges to interfere with the en
    forcement of expenditure limits that merely require candi
    dates to budget their activities without imposing any
    restrictions whatsoever on what they may say in their
    speeches, debates, and interviews.
      For the foregoing reasons, I agree with JUSTICE SOUTER
    that it would be entirely appropriate to allow further
    proceedings on expenditure limits to go forward in these
    cases. For the reasons given in Parts II and III of his
    dissent, I also agree that Vermont’s contribution limits
    and presumption of coordinated expenditures by political
    parties are constitutional, and so join those portions of his
    opinion.
    
    
    
    
    ——————
      5 See Art. I, §4 (providing that the “Times, Places and Manner of hold-
    
    ing Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each
    State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by
    Law make or alter such Regulations”); see also §5 (providing that “Each
    House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings”).
                      Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)           1
    
                         SOUTER, J., dissenting
    
    SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
                              _________________
    
                   Nos. 04–1528, 04–1530 and 04–1697
                              _________________
    
    
              NEIL RANDALL, ET AL., PETITIONERS
    04–1528                   v.
                  WILLIAM H. SORRELL ET AL.
    
    VERMONT REPUBLICAN STATE COMMITTEE, ET AL.,
                   PETITIONERS
    04–1530              v.
             WILLIAM H. SORRELL ET AL.
    
        WILLIAM H. SORRELL, ET AL., PETITIONERS
    04–1697              v.
                 NEIL RANDALL ET AL.
    ON WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
               APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
                             [June 26, 2006]
    
      JUSTICE SOUTER, with whom JUSTICE GINSBURG joins,
    and with whom JUSTICE STEVENS joins as to Parts II and
    III, dissenting.
      In 1997, the Legislature of Vermont passed Act 64 after
    a series of public hearings persuaded legislators that
    rehabilitating the State’s political process required cam
    paign finance reform. A majority of the Court today de
    cides that the expenditure and contribution limits enacted
    are irreconcilable with the Constitution’s guarantee of free
    speech. I would adhere to the Court of Appeals’s decision
    to remand for further enquiry bearing on the limitations
    on candidates’ expenditures, and I think the contribution
    limits satisfy controlling precedent. I respectfully dissent.
    2                   RANDALL v. SORRELL 
    
    
                         SOUTER, J., dissenting 
    
    
                                    I
    
      Rejecting Act 64’s expenditure limits as directly contra
    vening Buckley v. Valeo, 
    424 U.S. 1
     (1976) (per curiam),
    ante, at 8–11 (opinion of BREYER, J.), is at least premature.
      We said in Buckley that “expenditure limitations impose
    far greater restraints on the freedom of speech and asso
    ciation than do . . . contribution limitations,” 424 U. S., at
    44, but the Buckley Court did not categorically foreclose
    the possibility that some spending limit might comport
    with the First Amendment. Instead, Buckley held that the
    constitutionality of an expenditure limitation “turns on
    whether the governmental interests advanced in its sup
    port satisfy the [applicable] exacting scrutiny.” Ibid. In
    applying that standard in Buckley itself, the Court gave no
    indication that it had given serious consideration to an
    aim that Vermont’s statute now pursues: to alleviate the
    drain on candidates’ and officials’ time caused by the
    endless fundraising necessary to aggregate many small
    contributions to meet the opportunities for ever more
    expensive campaigning. Instead, we dwelt on rejecting
    the sufficiency of interests in reducing corruption, equaliz
    ing the financial resources of candidates, and capping the
    overall cost of political campaigns, see id., at 55–57. Al
    though Justice White went a step further in dissenting
    from the Court on expenditures, and made something of
    the interest in getting officials off the “treadmill” driven by
    the “obsession with fundraising,” see id., at 265 (opinion
    concurring in part and dissenting in part), this lurking
    issue was not treated as significant on the expenditure
    question in the per curiam opinion. Whatever the obser
    vations made to the Buckley Court about the effect of
    fundraising on candidates’ time, the Court did not
    squarely address a time-protection interest as support for
    the expenditure limits, much less one buttressed by as
                          Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)                     3
    
                              SOUTER, J., dissenting
    
    thorough a record as we have here.*
       Vermont’s argument therefore does not ask us to over
    rule Buckley; it asks us to apply Buckley’s framework to
    determine whether its evidence here on a need to slow the
    fundraising treadmill suffices to support the enacted
    limitations. Vermont’s claim is serious. Three decades of
    experience since Buckley have taught us much, and the
    findings made by the Vermont Legislature on the perni
    cious effect of the nonstop pursuit of money are signifi
    cant. See, e.g., Act 64, H. 28, Legislative Findings and
    Intent, at App. 20 (finding that “candidates for statewide
    offices are spending inordinate amounts of time raising
    campaign funds”); ibid. (finding that “[r]obust debate of
    issues, candidate interaction with the electorate, and
    public involvement and confidence in the electoral process
    have decreased as campaign expenditures have in
    creased”); see also Landell v. Sorrell, 
    118 F. Supp. 2d
     459,
    467 (Vt. 2000) (noting testimony of Senator Shumlin
    before the legislature that raising funds “was one of the
    most distasteful things that I’ve had to do in public ser
    vice” (internal quotation marks omitted)); Landell v.
    Sorrell, 
    382 F.3d 91
    , 123 (CA2 2004) (public officials
    testified at trial that “elected officials spend time with
    donors rather than on their official duties”).
       The legislature’s findings are surely significant enough
    to justify the Court of Appeals’s remand to the District
    ——————
       * In approving the public funding provisions of the subject campaign
    finance law, Subtitle H of the Internal Revenue Code, the Buckley
    Court appreciated that in enacting the provision Congress was legislat
    ing in part “to free candidates from the rigors of fundraising,” 424 U. S.,
    at 91; see also id., at 96 (“Congress properly regarded public financing
    as an appropriate means of relieving major-party Presidential candi
    dates from the rigors of soliciting private contributions”). Recognition
    of the interest as to Subtitle H, a question of congressional power
    involving a different evidentiary burden, see South Dakota v. Dole, 
    483 U.S. 203
    , 207 (1987); see also Buckley, supra, at 90, does not imply a
    conclusive rejection of it as to the separate issue of expenditure limits.
    4                   RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         SOUTER, J., dissenting
    
    Court to decide whether Vermont’s spending limits are the
    least restrictive means of accomplishing what the court
    unexceptionably found to be worthy objectives. See id., at
    124–125, 135–137. The District Court was instructed to
    examine a variety of outstanding issues, including alter
    natives considered by Vermont’s Legislature and the
    reasons for rejecting them. See id., at 136. Thus, the
    constitutionality of the expenditure limits was not conclu
    sively decided by the Second Circuit, and I believe the
    evidentiary work that remained to be done would have
    raised the prospect for a sound answer to that question,
    whatever the answer might have been. Instead, we are
    left with an unresolved question of narrow tailoring and
    with consequent doubt about the justifiability of the
    spending limits as necessary and appropriate correctives.
    This is not the record on which to foreclose the ability of a
    State to remedy the impact of the money chase on the
    democratic process. I would not, therefore, disturb the
    Court of Appeals’s stated intention to remand.
                                   II
       Although I would defer judgment on the merits of the
    expenditure limitations, I believe the Court of Appeals
    correctly rejected the challenge to the contribution limits.
    Low though they are, one cannot say that “the contribu
    tion limitation[s are] so radical in effect as to render po
    litical association ineffective, drive the sound of a candi
    date’s voice below the level of notice, and render
    contributions pointless.” Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Gov
    ernment PAC, 
    528 U.S. 377
    , 397 (2000).
       The limits set by Vermont are not remarkable depar
    tures either from those previously upheld by this Court or
    from those lately adopted by other States. The plurality
    concedes that on a per-citizen measurement Vermont’s
    limit for statewide elections “is slightly more generous,”
    ante, at 18, than the one set by the Missouri statute ap
                      Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)              5
    
                          SOUTER, J., dissenting
    
    proved by this Court in Shrink, supra. Not only do those
    dollar amounts get more generous the smaller the district,
    they are consistent with limits set by the legislatures of
    many other States, all of them with populations larger than
    Vermont’s, some significantly so. See, e.g., Montana Right
    to Life Assn. v. Eddleman, 
    343 F.3d 1085
    , 1088 (CA9 2003)
    (approving $400 limit for candidates filed jointly for Gover
    nor and Lieutenant Governor, since increased to $500, see
    Mont. Code Ann. §13–37–216(1)(a)(i) (2005)); Daggett v.
    Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices,
    
    205 F.3d 445
    , 452 (CA1 2000) ($500 limit for gubernatorial
    candidates in Maine); Minnesota Citizens Concerned for
    Life, Inc. v. Kelley, 
    427 F.3d 1106
    , 1113 (CA8 2005) ($500
    limit on contributions to legislative candidates in election
    years, $100 in other years); Florida Right to Life, Inc. v.
    Mortham, No. 6:98–770–CV, 
    2000 WL 33733256
    , *3 (MD
    Fla., Mar. 20, 2000) ($500 limit on contributions to any state
    candidate). The point is not that this Court is bound by
    judicial sanctions of those numbers; it is that the consis
    tency in legislative judgment tells us that Vermont is not an
    eccentric party of one, and that this is a case for the judicial
    deference that our own precedents say we owe here. See
    Shrink, supra, at 402 (BREYER, J., concurring) (“Where a
    legislature has significantly greater institutional expertise,
    as, for example, in the field of election regulation, the Court
    in practice defers to empirical legislative judgments”); see
    also ante, at 14 (plurality opinion) (“[O]rdinarily we have
    deferred to the legislature’s determination of [matters re
    lated to the costs and nature of running for office]”).
       To place Vermont’s contribution limits beyond the con
    stitutional pale, therefore, is to forget not only the facts of
    Shrink, but also our self-admonition against second-
    guessing legislative judgments about the risk of corruption
    to which contribution limits have to be fitted. See Shrink,
    supra, at 391, and n. 5. And deference here would surely
    not be overly complaisant. Vermont’s legislators them
    6                   RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                         SOUTER, J., dissenting
    
    selves testified at length about the money that gets their
    special attention, see Act 64, H. 28, Legislative Findings
    and Intent, at App. 20 (finding that “[s]ome candidates
    and elected officials, particularly when time is limited,
    respond and give access to contributors who make large
    contributions in preference to those who make small or no
    contributions”); 
    382 F. 3d
    , at 122 (testimony of Elizabeth
    Ready: “If I have only got an hour at night when I get
    home to return calls, I am much more likely to return [a
    donor’s] call than I would [a non-donor’s] . . . . [W]hen you
    only have a few minutes to talk, there are certain people
    that get access” (alterations in original)). The record
    revealed the amount of money the public sees as suspi
    ciously large, see 
    118 F. Supp. 2d
    , at 479–480 (“The limits
    set by the legislature . . . accurately reflect the level of
    contribution considered suspiciously large by the Vermont
    public. Testimony suggested that amounts greater than
    the contribution limits are considered large by the Ver
    mont public”). And testimony identified the amounts high
    enough to pay for effective campaigning in a State where
    the cost of running tends to be on the low side, see id., at
    471 (“In the context of Vermont politics, $200, $300, and
    $400 donations are clearly large, as the legislature deter
    mined. Small donations are considered to be strong acts of
    political support in this state. William Meub testified that
    a contribution of $1 is meaningful because it represents a
    commitment by the contributor that is likely to become a
    vote for the candidate. Gubernatorial candidate Ruth
    Dwyer values the small contributions of $5 so much that
    she personally sends thank you notes to those donors”);
    id., at 470–471 (“In Vermont, many politicians have run
    effective and winning campaigns with very little money,
    and some with no money at all. . . . Several candidates,
    campaign managers, and past and present government
    officials testified that they will be able to raise enough
    money to mount effective campaigns in the system of
                     Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)            7
    
                         SOUTER, J., dissenting
    
    contribution limits established by Act 64”); id., at 472
    (“Spending in Vermont statewide elections is very low . . . .
    Vermont ranks 49th out of the 50 states in campaign
    spending. The majority of major party candidates for
    statewide office in the last three election cycles spent less
    than what the spending limits of Act 64 would allow. . . .
    In Vermont legislative races, low-cost methods such as
    door-to-door campaigning are standard and even expected
    by the voters”).
       Still, our cases do not say deference should be absolute.
    We can all imagine dollar limits that would be laughable,
    and per capita comparisons that would be meaningless
    because aggregated donations simply could not sustain
    effective campaigns. The plurality thinks that point has
    been reached in Vermont, and in particular that the low
    contribution limits threaten the ability of challengers to
    run effective races against incumbents. Thus, the plural
    ity’s limit of deference is substantially a function of suspi
    cion that political incumbents in the legislature set low
    contribution limits because their public recognition and
    easy access to free publicity will effectively augment their
    own spending power beyond anything a challenger can
    muster. The suspicion is, in other words, that incumbents
    cannot be trusted to set fair limits, because facially neu
    tral limits do not in fact give challengers an even break.
    But this received suspicion is itself a proper subject of
    suspicion. The petitioners offered, and the plurality in
    vokes, no evidence that the risk of a pro-incumbent advan
    tage has been realized; in fact, the record evidence runs
    the other way, as the plurality concedes. See ante, at 22
    (“the record does contain some anecdotal evidence support
    ing the respondents’ position, namely, testimony about a
    post-Act-64 competitive mayoral campaign in Burlington,
    which suggests that a challenger can ‘amas[s] the re
    sources necessary for effective advocacy,’ Buckley, 424
    U. S., at 21”). I would not discount such evidence that
    8                  RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                        SOUTER, J., dissenting
    
    these low limits are fair to challengers, for the experience
    of the Burlington race is confirmed by recent empirical
    studies addressing this issue of incumbent’s advantage.
    See, e.g., Eom & Gross, Contribution Limits and Disparity
    in Contributions Between Gubernatorial Candidates, 59
    Pol. Research Q. 99, 99 (2006) (“Analyses of both the
    number of contributors and the dollar amount of contribu
    tions [to gubernatorial candidates] suggest no support for
    an increased bias in favor of incumbents resulting from
    the presence of campaign contribution limits. If anything,
    contribution limits can work to reduce the bias that tradi
    tionally works in favor of incumbents. Also, contribution
    limits do not seem to increase disparities between guber
    natorial candidates in general” (emphasis deleted)); Bard-
    well, Money and Challenger Emergence in Gubernatorial
    Primaries, 55 Pol. Research Q. 653 (2002) (finding that
    contribution limits favor neither incumbents nor challeng
    ers); Hogan, The Costs of Representation in State Legisla
    tures: Explaining Variations in Campaign Spending, 81
    Soc. Sci. Q. 941, 952 (2000) (finding that contribution
    limits reduce incumbent spending but have no effect on
    challenger or open-seat candidate spending). The Legisla
    ture of Vermont evidently tried to account for the realities
    of campaigning in Vermont, and I see no evidence of con
    stitutional miscalculation sufficient to dispense with
    respect for its judgments.
                                 III
      Four issues of detail call for some attention, the first
    being the requirement that a volunteer’s expenses count
    against the person’s contribution limit. The plurality
    certainly makes out the case that accounting for these
    expenses will be a colossal nuisance, but there is no case
    here that the nuisance will noticeably limit volunteering,
    or that volunteers whose expenses reach the limit cannot
    continue with their efforts subject to charging their candi
                      Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)             9
    
                         SOUTER, J., dissenting
    
    dates for the excess. Granted, if the provisions for contri
    bution limits were teetering on the edge of unconstitution
    ality, Act 64’s treatment of volunteers’ expenses might be
    the finger-flick that gives the fatal push, but it has no
    greater significance than that.
       Second, the failure of the Vermont law to index its limits
    for inflation is even less important. This challenge is to
    the law as it is, not to a law that may have a different
    impact after future inflation if the state legislature fails to
    bring it up to economic date.
       Third, subjecting political parties to the same contribu
    tion limits as individuals does not condemn the Vermont
    scheme. What we said in Federal Election Comm’n v.
    Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Comm., 
    533 U.S. 431
    , 454–455 (2001), dealing with regulation of coordi
    nated expenditures, goes here, too. The capacity and
    desire of parties to make large contributions to competi
    tive candidates with uphill fights are shared by rich indi
    viduals, and the risk that large party contributions would
    be channels to evade individual limits cannot be elimi
    nated. Nor are these reasons to support the party limits
    undercut by claims that the restrictions render parties
    impotent, for the parties are not precluded from uncoordi
    nated spending to benefit their candidates. That said, I
    acknowledge the suggestions in the petitioners’ briefs that
    such restrictions in synergy with other influences weaken
    ing party power would justify a wholesale reexamination
    of the situation of party organization today. But whether
    such a comprehensive reexamination belongs in courts or
    only in legislatures is not an issue presented by these
    cases.
       Finally, there is the issue of Act 64’s presumption of
    coordinated expenditures on the part of political parties,
    Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 17, §2809(d) (2002). The plurality has
    no occasion to reach it; I do reach it, but find it insignifi
    cant. The Republican Party petitioners complain that the
    10                   RANDALL v. SORRELL
    
                          SOUTER, J., dissenting
    
    related expenditure provision imposes on both the candi
    date and the party the burden in some circumstances to
    prove that coordination of expenditure did not take place,
    thus threatening to charge against a candidate’s spending
    limits some party expenditures that are in fact independ
    ent, with an ultimate consequence of chilling speech. See
    Brief for Respondent/Cross-Petitioner Vermont Republi
    can State Committee et al. 45–46. On the contrary, how
    ever, we can safely take the presumption on the represen
    tation to this Court by the Attorney General of Vermont:
    the law imposes not a burden of persuasion but merely one
    of production, leaving the presumption easily rebuttable.
    See Tr. of Oral Arg. 39–41 (representation that the pre
    sumption disappears once credible evidence, such as an
    affidavit, is offered); see also Brief for Respondent/Cross-
    Petitioner William H. Sorrell et al. 48 (the presumption
    “contributes no evidence and disappears when facts ap
    pear. In a case covered by the presumption, a political
    party need only present some evidence that the presumed
    fact is not true and the presumption vanishes. . . . Simple
    testimony that the expenditure was not coordinated would
    suffice to defeat the presumption” (citations, internal
    quotation marks, and alterations omitted)). As so under
    stood, the rebuttable presumption clearly imposes no
    onerous burden like the conclusive presumption in Colo
    rado Republican Federal Campaign Comm. v. Federal
    Election Comm’n, 
    518 U.S. 604
    , 619 (1996) (principal opin
    ion), or the nearly conclusive one in Riley v. National Fed
    eration of Blind of N. C., Inc., 
    487 U.S. 781
    , 785–786 (1988).
    Requiring the party in possession of the pertinent facts to
    come forward with them, as easily as by executing an affi
    davit, does not rise to the level of a constitutionally offensive
    encumbrance here. Cf. County Court of Ulster Cty. v. Allen,
    
    442 U.S. 140
    , 158, n. 16 (1979) (“To the extent that a pre
    sumption imposes an extremely low burden of production—
    e.g., being satisfied by ‘any’ evidence—it may well be that its
                      Cite as: 548 U. S. ____ (2006)              11
    
                         SOUTER, J., dissenting
    
    impact is no greater than that of a permissive inference”).
                                IV
      Because I would not pass upon the constitutionality of
    Vermont’s expenditure limits prior to further enquiry into
    their fit with the problem of fundraising demands on
    candidates, and because I do not see the contribution
    limits as depressed to the level of political inaudibility, I
    respectfully dissent.
    

Document Info

DocketNumber: 04-1528

Citation Numbers: 548 U.S. 230, 126 S. Ct. 2479, 165 L. Ed. 2d 482, 2006 U.S. LEXIS 5161

Filed Date: 6/26/2006

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 2/1/2018

Authorities (39)

United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co. , 200 U.S. 321 ( 1906 )

Champlin Rfg. Co. v. Corporation Commission of Oklahoma , 286 U.S. 210 ( 1932 )

Burroughs and Cannon v. United States , 290 U.S. 534 ( 1934 )

Helvering v. Hallock , 309 U.S. 106 ( 1940 )

United States v. Harriss , 347 U.S. 612 ( 1954 )

United States v. Automobile Workers , 352 U.S. 567 ( 1957 )

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan , 376 U.S. 254 ( 1964 )

Buckley v. Valeo , 424 U.S. 1 ( 1976 )

County Court of Ulster Cty. v. Allen , 442 U.S. 140 ( 1979 )

California Medical Assn. v. Federal Election Comm'n , 453 U.S. 182 ( 1981 )

Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc. , 466 U.S. 485 ( 1984 )

Arizona v. Rumsey , 467 U.S. 203 ( 1984 )

Federal Election Comm'n v. National Conservative Political ... , 470 U.S. 480 ( 1985 )

Federal Election Comm'n v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life, ... , 479 U.S. 238 ( 1986 )

South Dakota v. Dole , 483 U.S. 203 ( 1987 )

Riley v. National Federation of Blind of NC, Inc. , 487 U.S. 781 ( 1988 )

Payne v. Tennessee , 501 U.S. 808 ( 1991 )

Norman v. Reed , 502 U.S. 279 ( 1992 )

BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore , 517 U.S. 559 ( 1996 )

United States v. International Business MacHines Corp. ... , 517 U.S. 843 ( 1996 )

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