"They say money talks. I thought that was the problem."
Prof. Paul Freund, commenting on Buckley v. Valeo,1976.
Buckley v. Valeo was the case in which the Supreme Court first decided that the wealthy can spend their own money to further their political campaigns without let or hindrance. The central idea underlying that case--that money equals speech--has led to the political situation today, where wealth dominates our politics.
But does the First Amendment really empower the wealthy or organized pressure groups by protecting their right to spend money? The Amendment says that speech shall be free; it does not say that some people have the right to drown out others, nor does it hold that some speech is more valuable than others.
Would it violate the First Amendment if reasonable limits applied to all individuals, whether they are contributing to someone else's campaign or supporting their own? As long as the limits were the same for all, how would freedom of speech be impeded?
"Conservative" jurists like to concentrate on the text of the constitutional or statutory provision at issue. It's time to look at the First Amendment that way--at what it says, and at what it doesn't.