Henry Ford vs. Truman H. Newberry: The Famous Senate Election Contest: A Study in American Politics, Legislation and Justice

Henry Ford vs. Truman H. Newberry: The Famous Senate Election Contest: A Study in American Politics, Legislation and Justice

Henry Ford vs. Truman H. Newberry: The Famous Senate Election Contest: A Study in American Politics, Legislation and Justice

Henry Ford vs. Truman H. Newberry: The Famous Senate Election Contest: A Study in American Politics, Legislation and Justice

Excerpt

The men who framed the Constitution of the United States intended that all regulations relating to the election of senators and representatives should be made by the several states, but they gave Congress the right to step in and control this matter if it ever saw fit. In most respects the regulations made by the states were adequate and satisfactory, but on several occasions during the second half of the nineteenth century Congress intervened to alter these rules--for example, in 1871, when it prescribed that the election of representatives should be by paper ballot in contrast to the system of oral voting which had prevailed in some of the states. Finally, in 1911, it decided to place a uniform limit upon the amounts of money which might lawfully be spent by candidates for election to the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Federal Corrupt Practices Act of that year set a maximum on such expenditures, but made no distinction between the primaries and the final elections. The limit was applied to both.

At the general election of 1918 Truman H. Newberry was elected United States senator from Michigan, having previously won the Republican nomination in a vigorous primary contest against Henry Ford. In this primary contest between two wealthy candidates a large amount of money was spent; sums very far in excess of the maximum limit prescribed by the Corrupt Practices Act. Accordingly, Senator Newberry was haled before a Federal court and convicted of having been a party to the violation of this law. The conviction, however, was appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled, in a five-to-four decision, that Congress had exceeded its powers in attempting to regulate primary elections. In other words a majority of the justices held that the power to . . .

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