Federal Judge Strikes Down Kentucky Ethics Laws - State and Federal Communications

June 8, 2017  •  

Federal Judge Strikes Down Kentucky Ethics Laws

In a 35-page order, a federal judge dismantled some of the toughest ethics laws in the country. U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman struck down Kentucky’s prohibitions on lawmakers accepting gifts from lobbyists and lobbyists making contributions to candidates for the state legislature.

Judge Bertelsman ruled the gift prohibition’s “anything of value” standard is too vague for an ordinary person to know what conduct is prohibited. Furthermore, the judge stated lobbying is a vital part of the political process and restricting what lobbyists can do in their interactions with a legislator is a violation of their freedom of association.

Republican state Sen. John Schickel, who filed the lawsuit, called the ruling a victory for freedom of speech.

The judge also took aim at caucus campaign committees, ruling the statutory definition restricting the committees to Republican or Democratic is unconstitutional. Former Libertarian House candidate David Watson challenged the law, saying third party candidates cannot compete with the amount of money generated by caucus campaign committees.

The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission and the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance are still reviewing the order and are considering an appeal.

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