Congress passed the 1974 FECA amendments in response to the Watergate scandal. The amendments were the most comprehensive revision of campaign finance law in history, but they incorporated most of the laws that had been on the books since the Tillman Act in 1907. Buckley v. Valeo was the Supreme Court's most comprehensive ruling on the constitutionality of that law.1

Buckley was about a challenge to the constitutionality of the entire range of campaign finance law. This was the first time anyone had disputed the very idea of regulating campaign funds, and it was the first time the court had expressed its own doubts about it. By striking down a key part of the 1974 FECA amendments, the court put the constitutionality of regulation at the center of the campaign finance issue for the first time. Debate about the way we should pay for election campaigns became more a matter of constitutional law than of politics, and made the Supreme Court the dominant voice in that debate.

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