Austin, Texas Campaign Finance Laws Challenged in Court - State and Federal Communications

July 31, 2015  •  

Austin, Texas Campaign Finance Laws Challenged in Court

Austin SunriseOn July 27, city of Austin, Texas Councilman Don Zimmerman filed suit seeking a preliminary injunction against city campaign finance provisions relating to blackout periods. The current law only allows officeholders, candidates, and their respective committees to accept campaign contributions during the last 180 days before an election or recall election. Zimmerman asserts the blackout period banning contributions in the city violates his First Amendment rights of free speech. On February 2, 2015, in Gordon v. City of Houston, a federal district court declared a similar ordinance in the city of Houston as facially unconstitutional and permanently enjoined the city from enforcing the ordinance.

Zimmerman v. City of Austin, Texas, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, also claims the law’s imposition of aggregate limits of the total contributions a candidate can accept from sources other than natural persons eligible to vote in a postal zip code completely or partially within the Austin city limits is unconstitutional, creates a burden on campaigns, and does not relate to any threat of corruption. The lawsuit also challenges a 90 day requirement for campaign account terminations. “Political speech is the very core of the First Amendment, but Austin’s campaign finance system seeks to control debate by controlling fundraising and spending,” stated Zimmerman’s attorney, Jerad Najvar, in a press release.

Photo of the Austin, Texas skyline by Erik A. Ellison on Wikimedia Commons.

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