National Voting Rights Institute
Campaign Finance is a Voting Rights Issue
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NVRI E-Update: September 2004
Notes from Stuart Comstock-Gay, Executive Director

Dear Friend,

August was a good month for NVRI and for voting rights, as NVRI saw victories in three cases -- one regarding campaign spending limits in Vermont, one regarding campaign spending limits in student government elections at the University of Montana, and the final regarding Presidential Debate Commission. For details about all of these, check the NVRI website ( And here's some more...

  1. Buckley Buckley Buckley
  2. Another Spending Limits Victory
  3. NVRI New York City Reception
  4. The Political Donor Class
  5. Support NVRI

1.  Buckley Buckley Buckley

NVRI and its colleague organizations are now preparing to ask the Supreme Court to review the ruling by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in striking down Albuquerque's 25-year old campaign spending limits law. NVRI will file its request by September 22, and numerous colleagues and supporters will subsequently join in asking the Court to review the case. NVRI of course believes that spending limits can be an appropriate way to encourage democracy, and are consistent with free speech principles. To better understand NVRI's position on spending limits, check the BuckBuckley website (, the website of the coalition seeking to make spending limits an acceptable option in the effort to imrove American democracy. Of course, in August the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said that very thing -- that campaign spending limits may be constitutional -- when reviewing Vermont's spending limits laws.

To read NVRI's brief to the Supreme Court, check the NVRI website after September 22nd, when we will post the filing. (


2.  Another Spending Limits Victory

Campaign spending limits in student government elections are safe at the University of Montana, thanks to a late August ruling by a federal judge in Missoula. Chief United States District Judge Donald Molloy denied a request for an injunction against the spending limits, stating that the student involved was unlikely to succeed on his claim that the $100 cap on spending violated his First Amendment right to free speech. Judge Molloy cited the University´┐Żs strong interest in assuring that all students enjoy equal access to "the educational benefits available through ASUM participation." "The First Amendment should not mean that students must spend unlimited amounts just to win a seat on student government," said NVRI attorney Lisa Danetz. "This ruling is an important victory for fair elections." NVRI served as co-counsel with the university in the case. For more on this, click here.


3.  NVRI New York City Reception

Join NVRI on October 14 in New York City to hear Charles Lewis talk about the impact of money on the 2004 elections. Lewis, author of Buying of the President 2004, along with many other books, is Executive Director and Founder of the Center for Public Integrity. The nationally-renowned Center conducts investigative research and reporting on public policy issues in the U.S. and around the world. The Center's most recent report discusses the millionaires behind both President Bush and Senator Kerry. "In fact, President George Bush and Senator John Kerry now share four of the same 10 largest donors this election cycle," says the Center, "all of whom are financial corporations."

To read the full report log on to To get more information about the October 14 NVRI event, contact Pamela Sheward ([email protected]).


4.  The Political Donor Class

NVRI board member Spencer Overton, a law professor at George Washington University Law School, has published a fascinating look at the new "donor class" in American elections. "Even in the aftermath of the reforms upheld in McConnell...a small, wealthy and homogenous donor class continues to make relatively large contributions that fund the bulk of American politics. Less than one percent of the U.S. population makes financial contributions over $200 to federal candidates, and these contributions represent the vast majority of funds that candidates receive from individuals. Of those who contribute over $200, approximately 85 percent have household incomes of $100,000 or more, 70 percent are male, and 96 percent are white. This donor class effectively determines which candidates possess the resources to run viable campaigns." To read the piece, click here.


5.  Support NVRI

If you cannot join us in NY, your contributions are of course always welcome. Send yours to:

National Voting Rights Institute
27 School Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02108


As always, drop a note if you have questions or suggestions. And if you are not already a subscriber to this regular e-news publication, you can sign up by clicking here. Feel free to share this e-news widely.




Stuart Comstock-Gay
Executive Director
National Voting Rights Institute
[email protected]

National Voting Rights Institute, 27 School Street, Suite 500, Boston, MA 02108
Phone: (617) 624-3900  ¤  Fax: (617) 624-3911  ¤  ¤  [email protected]