In The

Supreme Court of the United States




Decided December 15, 1986

Justice O’Connor, Concurring

Topic: First Amendment*Court vote: 5–4
Note: No other Justices joined this opinion.
Citation: 479 U.S. 238 Docket: 85–701Audio: Listen to this case's oral arguments at Oyez

* As categorized by the Washington University Law Supreme Court Database

Next opinion >< Previous opinion

DISCLAIMER: Only United States Reports are legally valid sources for Supreme Court opinions. The text below is provided for ease of access only. If you need to cite the exact text of this opinion or if you would like to view the opinions of the other Justices in this case, please view the original United States Report at the Library of Congress or Justia. The Sandra Day O'Connor Institute does not in any way represent, warrant, or guarantee that the text below is accurate."


JUSTICE O'CONNOR, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

I join Parts I, II, III-B, and III-C, and I concur in the Court's judgment that § 316 of the Federal Election Campaign Act (Act), 2 U.S.C. § 441b, is unconstitutional as applied to the conduct of appellee Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Inc. (MCFL), at issue in this case. I write separately, however, because I am concerned that the Court's discussion of the Act's disclosure requirements may be read as moving away from the teaching of Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1 (1976); see ante at 479 U. S. 254 -255. In Buckley, the Court was concerned not only with the chilling effect of reporting and disclosure requirements on an organization's contributors, 424 U.S. at 424 U. S. 66 -68, but also with the potential burden of disclosure requirements on a group's own speech. Id. at 424 U. S. 74 -82. The Buckley Court concluded that disclosure of a group's independent campaign expenditures serves the important governmental interest of "shed[ding] the light of publicity" on campaign financing, thereby helping voters to evaluate the constituencies of those who seek federal office. Id. at 424 U. S. 81. As a result, the burden of disclosing independent expenditures generally is "a reasonable and minimally restrictive method of furthering First Amendment values by opening the basic processes of our federal election system to public view." Id. at 424 U. S. 82.

In my view, the significant burden on MCFL in this case comes not from the disclosure requirements that it must satisfy, but from the additional organizational restraints imposed upon it by the Act. As the Court has described ante at 479 U. S. 253 -255, engaging in campaign speech requires MCFL to assume a more formalized organizational form and significantly reduces or eliminates the sources of funding for groups such as MCFL with few or no "members." These additional requirements do not further the Government's informational interest in campaign disclosure, and, for the reasons given by the Court, cannot be justified by any of the other interests identified by the Federal Election Commission. Although the organizational and solicitation restrictions are not invariably an insurmountable burden on speech, see, e.g., FEC v. National Right to Work Committee, 459 U. S. 197 (1982), in this case the Government has failed to show that groups such as MCFL pose any danger that would justify infringement of its core political expression. On that basis, I join in the Court's judgment that § 441b is unconstitutional as applied to MCFL.

Supreme Court icon marking end of opinion

Header photo: United States Supreme Court. Credit: Patrick McKay / Flickr - CC.