Campaign Finance Laws Challenged - State and Federal Communications

October 3, 2012  •  

Campaign Finance Laws Challenged

You Should KnowWith the November elections on the horizon, a number of lawsuits have been filed by potential campaign contributors seeking to determine the constitutionality of their states’ campaign finance laws. The following states have seen campaign finance laws invalidated in August.

In Nebraska, the state supreme court held the Campaign Finance Limitation Act (CFLA) unconstitutional. The CFLA allowed candidates participating in the public financing program to receive additional public funds if their privately-funded opponents exceeded certain spending limits. The court also struck down the CFLA’s aggregate contribution limits and rules governing acceptance of contributions from independent groups after the court determined the public financing portion of the CFLA was not severable from the rest of the law.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Ohio’s ban on political contributions to candidates for state attorney general or county prosecutor from doctors who treat Medicaid patients unconstitutional. The provision was designed to prevent fraud by banning contributions to those officials who prosecute Medicaid fraud, but the court held the prohibition a violation of doctors’ free speech rights.

In Florida, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of Florida’s $100 per election contribution limit for persons 17 and under, holding the law an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights. Florida allows persons aged 18 and over to contribute $500 per election.

A federal judge in West Virginia granted a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of West Virginia’s $1,000-per-election limit on contributions to independent expenditure PACs, on the grounds that the limit chills First Amendment free speech rights. The injunction will remain in place pending a final resolution of the case.

Finally, in Colorado, a federal judge invalidated several campaign finance rule changes made by the secretary of state. The rules struck down include one providing that organizations are only subject to reporting requirements if more than 30 percent of their spending was for or against a ballot issue, and one limiting penalties for certain campaign finance violations. The secretary of state’s rule defining electioneering communications was upheld. Two additional rules await a decision.

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