Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Campaign Donation Limits Stay, but Other Parts of Missouri's New Campaign Finance Law Blocked by Federal Judge

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Campaign Donation Limits Stay, but Other Parts of Missouri's New Campaign Finance Law Blocked by Federal Judge

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY * New limits on campaign donations in Missouri will stay in place for now, but other parts of a law approved by voters in November are on hold after a federal court decision issued Friday.

In a 40-page ruling, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Ortrie Smith said much of the new law didn't meet constitutional muster when it came to limiting certain kinds of organizations from contributing to political candidates and causes.

The ruling came on a day when the Missouri Senate spent hours engaged in sometimes emotional debate over campaign finance issues, including a push to force a new organization formed by allies of Gov. Eric Greitens to reveal its donors.

In the court case, the Association of Missouri Electrical Cooperatives and Legends Bank argued the new law unfairly stops them from donating to campaigns and political action committees.

Attorneys argued that if the law stayed in place, the electrical cooperatives would be unable to raise adequate money to ensure members' voices were heard by the Legislature and in upcoming elections.

In his decision, Smith said the Missouri Ethics Commission, which regulates campaign finance and lobbying activities, could not enforce the new law regarding giving by certain groups.

"My clients are happy with the ruling. The judge acknowledged that the First Amendment places limits on how much the state can restrict campaign contributions," said Chuck Hatfield, a Jefferson City-based attorney for the co-ops.

Under the November change to the state constitution, Missouri voters capped contributions to candidates at $2,600 per election. Contributions to a political party were capped at $25,000.

The change also attempted to ban the current practice of funneling money through different committees to hide the source of the contributions. It prohibits contributions by foreign interests and companies not legally authorized to conduct business in Missouri.

Smith said the latter provisions were unconstitutional and the ethics panel could not enforce that part of the law. …

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