CPAC Honors Buckley versus Valeo Decision

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

Arlington, VA ( - The 27th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Thursday honored the 1975 Supreme Court decision of Buckley versus Valeo where the jurists clearly outlined the connection between campaign donations and freedom of speech.

In the landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled that attempts to limit campaign expenditures and donations were unduly restrictive. It was the first such decision that equated the right to make campaign donations with free speech.

The lawsuit was brought by then New York Senator James Buckley and former Senator Eugene McCarthy to challenge changes being made in campaign laws after Watergate.

"Twenty-five years ago, the case of Buckley versus Valeo was brought by then Senator Jim Buckley of New York (C) and former Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-MN). That case has become the landmark Supreme Court case on the question of politics and free speech. It is the case today that is of most concern to the current wave of reformers like Senator McCain of Arizona. We thought it was time to bring the plaintiffs back together and are honoring them at this conference," said American Conservative Union Chairman and CPAC Chairman David Keene

While campaign prohibitions and limitations were installed by Congress as a result of the case, it led to the beginning of the modern political action committees. By limiting donation amounts to candidates, it allowed for citizens to make donations to certain political issues and causes.

Keene said CPAC is having its biggest conference ever despite snowfall that blanketed the Washington, DC area on Thursday morning.

"Registration for this year's conference is running ahead of last year. We would expect, with walk-ups, an attendance figure of somewhere between 2500-3000 before it is over, weather permitting," Keene said.

Keene said he believes the CPAC conference comes at a time when conservatives are asking themselves what they ought to be doing, not just politically but in a policy sense, in the next year.

Another highlight of the conference, Keene said, will be a videotape speech by Taiwanese President Lee Teng Hui.

He said President Lee is unable to attend the event in person because the Clinton Administration would not grant him a visa.

"The United States is reluctant to grant visas to officials of the Republic of China because of our policy towards Mainland China. However, President Lee agreed to a tape. The embassy of the People's Republic of China, as we understand it, has criticized the idea that he would be here, suggesting that he not be allowed even to tape an address to an American audience. They think that is bad for relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China," Keene said.

Keene said Taiwan is important to American conservatives because of our long-standing affiliation with the country and the United States opposition to communism.

"Conservatives in this country over decades have been very close to the people and the Republic of China. We believe that, as Americans begin for the first time in a number of years to focus on foreign policy questions, it is time to look at some of our friends... friends who seem to feel at times as if the United States no long cares about either friends or allies," Keene said.

CPAC is sponsored by the American Conservative Union and over 70 conservative organizations. The conference concludes on Saturday.