256 U.S. 232 (1921), 559, Newberry v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 559
Citation:256 U.S. 232, 41 S.Ct. 469, 65 L.Ed. 913
Party Name:Newberry v. United States
Case Date:May 02, 1921
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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256 U.S. 232 (1921)

41 S.Ct. 469, 65 L.Ed. 913

Newberry

v.

United States

No. 559

United States Supreme Court

May 2, 1921

Argued January 7, 10, 1921

ERROR TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN

Syllabus

1. Section 8 of the "Federal Corrupt Practices Act" (June 25, 1910, c. 392, 36 Stat. 822; amended August 19, 1911, c. 33, 37 Stat. 25), which undertakes to limit the amount of money which any candidate for the office of Representative in Congress or of United States Senator shall give, contribute, expend, use, or promise, or cause to be given, contributed, expended, used, or promised, in procuring his nomination or election, is unconstitutional. So held as applied to a primary election of candidates for a seat in the Senate. P. 247.

2. The power of Congress over elections of Senators and Representatives has its source in § 4 of Art. I of the Constitution, which provides:

The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of chusing Senators.

P. 247.

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3. An indefinite, undefined power in Congress over elections of Senators and Representatives, not derived from Art. I, § 4, cannot be inferred from the fact that the offices were created by the Constitution, or by assuming that the government must be free from any control by the states over matters affecting the choice of its officers -- a false assumption, ignoring powers clearly vested in the states under the Constitution and the federal character of the government. P. 249.

4. Elections within the original intendment of § 4 of Art. I were those wherein Senators should be chosen by legislatures and Representatives by voters possessing "the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature." Art. I, §§ 2 and 3. P. 250.

5. The Seventeenth Amendment neither announced nor requires a new meaning of election, and the word now has the same general significance as it did when the Constitution came into existence -- final choice of an officer by the duly qualified electors. P. 250.

6. Primaries are in no sense elections for office, but merely methods by which party adherents agree upon candidates whom they intend to offer and support for ultimate choice by all qualified electors. P. 250.

7. The Seventeenth Amendment does not modify Art. I, § 4, the source of congressional power to regulate the times, places, and manner of holding elections; that section remains intact and applicable to the election of both Representatives and Senators. P. 252.

8. The Act of June 4, 1914, c. 103, 38 Stat. 384, providing a temporary method of conducting the nomination and election of Senators, sheds no light on the power of Congress to regulate primaries and conventions. P. 253.

9. Even if the Seventeenth Amendment gave power to regulate primaries for the choice of senatorial candidates, its adoption did not validate the earlier penal statute on the subject (Act of 1910-1911, supra, par. 1); an after-acquired power cannot ex propria vigore validate a statute void when enacted. P. 254.

10. Section 2 of the Act of June 4, 1914, supra, if it could be regarded as an attempt to regulate nominations of Senators, based on the Amendment, would have no bearing on a prosecution under the Act of 1910-1911 for conduct occurring after that section expired by its own limitation. P. 254.

11. The power to control party primaries for designating candidates for the Senate is not within the grant of power "to regulate the manner of holding elections" (Art. I, § 4) -- neither within the

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fair intendment of the words used nor the meaning ascribed to them by the framer of the Constitution; it is not necessary in order to effectuate the power expressly granted (Art. I, § 8, cl. 18), and its exercise would interfere with purely domestic affairs of the states and infringe upon liberties reserved to the people. P. 256.

Reversed.

Writ of error to a conviction and sentence under an indictment charging conspiracy to violate the Federal Corrupt Practices Act. The case is stated in the opinion, post 243.

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MCREYNOLDS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Plaintiffs in error -- Truman H. Newberry, Paul H. King, and fifteen others -- were found guilty of conspiring (Criminal Code, § 37) to violate § 8, Act of Congress approved June 25, 1910, c. 392, 36 Stat. 822-824, as amended by Act of August 19, 1911, c. 33, § 2, 37 Stat. 25-29 -- the federal Corrupt Practices Act, which provides:

No candidate for Representative in Congress or for Senator of the United States shall give, contribute, expend, use, or promise, or cause to be given, contributed, expended, used, or promised, in procuring his nomination and election any sum, in the aggregate, in excess of the amount which he may lawfully give, contribute, expend, or promise under the laws of the state in which he resides: Provided, that no candidate for Representative in Congress shall give, contribute, expend, use, or promise any sum, in the aggregate, exceeding five thousand dollars in any campaign for his nomination and election, and no candidate for Senator of the United States shall give, contribute, expend, use, or promise any sum, in the aggregate, exceeding ten thousand dollars in any campaign for his nomination and election: Provided further, that money expended by any such candidate to meet and discharge any assessment, fee, or charge made or levied upon candidates by the laws of the state in which he resides, or for his necessary personal expenses, incurred for himself alone, for travel and subsistence, stationery

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and postage, writing or printing (other than in newspapers), and distributing letters, circulars, and posters, and for telegraph and telephone service, shall not be regarded as an expenditure within the meaning of this section, and shall not be considered any part of the sum herein fixed as the limit of expense, and need not be shown in the statements herein required to be filed.

Act No. 109, Sec. 1, Michigan Legislature, 1913, prohibits expenditure by or on behalf [41 S.Ct. 470] of a candidate, to be paid by him, in securing his nomination, of any sum exceeding twenty-five percentum of one year's compensation, and puts like limitation upon expenditures to obtain election after nomination. Section I is copied below.1

Taken with the state enactment, the federal statute in effect declares a candidate for the United States Senate punishable by fine and imprisonment if (except for certain

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specified purposes) he give, contribute, expend, use, promise or cause to be given, contributed, expended, used or promised in procuring his nomination and election more than $3,750 -- one-half of one year's salary. Under the construction of the act urged by the government and adopted by the court below, it is not necessary that the inhibited sum be paid, promised, or expended by the candidate himself, or be devoted to any secret or immoral purpose. For example, its open and avowed contribution and use by supporters upon suggestion by him or with his approval and cooperation in order to promote public discussion and debate touching vital questions or to pay necessary expenses of speakers, etc., is enough. And, upon such interpretation, the conviction below was asked and obtained.

The indictment charges that Truman H Newberry became a candidate for the Republican nomination for United States Senator from Michigan at the primary election held August 27, 1918; that, by reason of selection and nomination therein, he became a candidate at the general election, November 5, 1918; that he and 134 others (who are named) at divers times from December 1, 1917, to November 5, 1918, unlawfully and feloniously did conspire, combine, confederate, and agree together to commit the offense on his part of willfully violating the Act of Congress approved June 25, 1910, as amended, by giving, contributing, expending, and using and by causing to be given, contributed, expended and used, in procuring his nomination and election at said primary and general elections, a greater sum than the laws of Michigan permitted and above ten thousand dollars, to-wit, $100,000, and on the part of the other defendants of aiding, counseling, inducing, and procuring Newberry as such candidate to give, contribute, expend, and use or cause to be given, contributed, expended and used said large and excessive sum in order to procure his nomination

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and election. Plaintiffs in error were convicted under count one, set out in the margin.2

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The court below overruled a duly interposed demurrer which challenged the constitutionality of § 8, and, by so doing, we think, fell into error.

Manifestly, this section applies not only to final elections for choosing Senators, but also to primaries and conventions of political parties for selection of candidates. Michigan and many other states undertake to control these primaries by statutes, and give recognition to their results. And the ultimate question for solution here is whether, under the grant of power to regulate "the manner of holding elections," Congress may fix the maximum sum which a candidate therein may spend, or advise or cause to be contributed and spent by others to procure his nomination.

Section 4, Article I, of the Constitution provides:

The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each state

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by the legislature thereof; but the Congress...

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