Two decades-old campaign contribution restrictions overwhelmingly approved by Austin voters were struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Feb. 2.
Former city councilmember Donald Zimmerman challenged the city’s temporal restriction on campaign solicitations, prohibiting solicitation of campaign funds more than six months prior to an election, and its disgorgement provision, generally requiring candidates to return unused campaign contributions.
The city failed to prove that the limits were necessary to curb actual or perceived corruption, Judge Stephen A. Higginson wrote for the unanimous court.
The provisions are just the latest to fall after the U.S. Supreme Court limited the allowed justifications for restricting campaign finance activities, in Citizens United v. Fed. Election Comm’n . Only a desire to limit actual or perceived corruption will do, the Supreme Court said.
Although Austin argued that its solicitation restriction was intend to curb actual or perceived corruption, it didn’t prove that the restriction would actually do that, the court said.
The city offered no justification why a contribution made 12 months prior to an election would be more dangerous than one made six months prior to the election, the court said.
And Austin didn’t even attempt to justify its disgorgement provision as necessary to prevent actual or perceived corruption, the court said.
The city instead argued that there was no First Amendment right to use funds from one campaign to the next.
The “‘First Amendment clock is re-set’ if and when a new campaign begins,” the city argued.
The court disagreed. Though “a donor’s interest in voicing support for a particular candidate may end with the passing of one election cycle—for any number of reasons, the donor may no longer support that same candidate if and when the candidate runs again—that does not mean that all First Amendment rights associated with that contribution so too must end,” the court said.
Contributions, not matter when received, help a “candidate communicate a political message,” it said. Therefore the “candidate’s expenditure of that money to engage in political speech is then afforded its own constitutional protection.”
The court upheld the city’s $350 base limit on contributions from individual donors, however.
The case is Zimmerman v. City of Austin , 2018 BL 34321, 5th Cir., No. 16-51366, 2/1/18 .
To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at email@example.com
Copyright © 2018 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)