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U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared torn over the constitutionality of the so-called “millionaires’ amendment,” a law that allows the opponents of rich, self-financing candidates for Congress to receive higher contributions from individuals and parties than would otherwise be allowed. Led by Justice Antonin Scalia during arguments on April 22, several justices expressed doubt that the First Amendment allows government to manipulate campaign speech solely to “level the playing field” among candidates for office. Davis v. Federal Election Commission, No. 07-320. “Do you think we should trust our incumbent senators and representatives to level the playing field for us?” Scalia asked. Andrew Herman, a lawyer with the Brand Law Group in Washington, represented Democrat Jack Davis, a wealthy but unsuccessful two-time candidate for Congress in upstate New York who triggered the law by spending nearly $4 million for his 2006 campaign. He claimed that the law forces him to face the unappealing and unconstitutional choice of either limiting his expenditures to stay below the limit that triggers the law or, if he goes above the limit, aiding his opponent. Under the law, when self-financing candidates spend more than $350,000 on their own campaign, their opponent can receive individual donations from supporters of up to $6,900, or three times the usual limit of $2,300. The opponent also can receive unlimited support from his or her party, removing the usual cap of $40,900 in House races. The law imposes extensive reporting requirements on the self-financing candidate. Justices who seemed sympathetic to the law kept questioning Herman about the harm Davis or the First Amendment suffered because of the law. “Your candidate isn’t subject to any restriction at all on what he can spend,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. told Herman. “And his opponent is subject to less restrictions. It seems to me the First Amendment comes out better.” Justices David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg appeared supportive of the law, but several conservative justices challenged Solicitor General Paul Clement as he defended the law as a modest effort to blunt the public perception that seats in Congress can be bought. “Isn’t there something very strange about having different contribution limits for candidates in an election?” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked Clement. Search and seizure The Supreme Court affirmed on April 23 that police have the power to conduct searches and seize evidence, even when done during an arrest that turns out to have violated state law. The unanimous decision came in a case in which Portsmouth, Va., detectives seized crack cocaine from a motorist after arresting him for a traffic ticket offense. Virginia v. Moore, No. 06-1082. Scalia wrote that when officers have probable cause to believe a person has committed a crime in their presence, the Fourth Amendment permits them to make an arrest and to search the suspect in order to safeguard evidence and ensure their own safety. The Bush administration and attorneys general from 18 states lined up in support of Virginia prosecutors. The federal government said Moore’s case had the potential to greatly increase the class of unconstitutional arrests, resulting in evidence seized during searches being excluded with increasing frequency. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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