Campaign Contribution Limits

Affiliate: ACLU of Kentucky
June 24, 2010 12:00 am

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Plaintiffs argue $100 contribution limit violates free speech in school board elections


LOUISVILLE – The ACLU of Kentucky today filed suit in federal court on behalf of two plaintiffs challenging Kentucky’s $100 limit on campaign contributions in school board elections. The law prevents individuals from contributing more than $100 to any candidate for school board.

The ACLU argues that the contribution limit violates donors’ right to free speech, in that it impermissibly restricts their ability to contribute financial resources to their chosen candidate. It also undermines the democratic process, says ACLU Cooperating Attorney Amy Cubbage, because “the strength of our democracy depends on ensuring fairness in the political process.” According to Cubbage, “by limiting individual contributions in school board elections to $100, the law effectively prevents candidates from marshalling the necessary resources to mount an effective campaign, particularly in the face of rising costs and special interest expenditures.”

One of the plaintiffs, Mr. Ben Foster, previously ran unsuccessfully for Jefferson County School Board in 2008. “The $100 limit rendered it impossible for me to raise enough money to compete” said Foster. While pointing out that this case is not about his previous loss, or the ability of special interest organizations to promote their chosen candidate(s), Foster stated that “once my opponent received the endorsement of one such organization, that group outspent me by a margin of almost 30-1. I don’t mind losing, but I do mind losing on an uneven playing field, and the inability to raise more than $100 from any single donor ensured that I would not be able to compete in that election.”

Like Foster, the other plaintiff in the suit is an individual who wishes to contribute more than the $100 limit allows, but is prevented from doing so because violations of the contribution limit are punishable as a felony under Kentucky law.

In addition to filing suit, the plaintiffs also asked the court for a preliminary injunction that would prevent the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance from enforcing the contribution limit during the current election cycle. The plaintiffs are represented by ACLU of Kentucky cooperating attorneys Amy Cubbage, Junis Baldon and Chris Johnson and by ACLU of Kentucky staff attorney William Sharp.

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