Federal Court Cuts the Heart from Campaign Finance Laws State Limits on Spending Violate Freedom of Speech, Judge Rules

Article excerpt

A federal judge says major parts of Missouri campaign finance laws - including limits on spending - are unconstitutional because they restrict free speech.

The ruling Friday by U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry also lifts restrictions on the war chests that candidates carry over from one campaign to another.

One of the American Civil Liberties Union attorneys who challenged the laws, Frank Susman, said the ruling produced a score of "Constitution 1, state of Missouri 0."

"The Bill of Rights lives," Susman added.

Attorney General Jay Nixon, a defendant in the suit, will appeal Perry's ruling, a spokeswoman said.

In her order, Perry said the "patchwork of Missouri campaign reforms" passed last year showed a desire to limit the "increasingly costly and negative world of political campaigns."

But she said that although unlimited campaign spending "is not a sensible use of society's resources," the new laws run afoul of First Amendment rights of free speech.

Perry added that while "coercive" state law regulates campaign spending and types of contributors, it "provides no method, such as public funding, to replace that forfeited funding."

Bruce D. La Pierre, another of the ACLU lawyers, said that as a result of Perry's ruling, limits on contributions by individuals are the only major restrictions still in effect for candidates for state and local office in Missouri.

The ACLU filed the suit against the campaign laws in May after the Missouri Ethics Commission set a deadline for disposal of leftover campaign funds.

The suit sought to block enforcement of major parts of laws known as Proposition A and Senate Bill 650.

The Legislature passed Senate Bill 650 last year. …


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