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Federal judge strikes down contribution limits on Washington ballot issues

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September 7, 2010

By Kyle Maichle

SEATTLE, Washington: A federal judge ruled on September 1, 2010, that Washington's limits on contributions made to Ballot Issue Committees during the final 21 days before an election is unconstitutional[1].

FamilyPAC filed a lawsuit against the Washington Public Disclosure Commission citing that the limits violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution on the basis of free speech. FamilyPAC also cited past federal court decisions that have struck down contribution limits on campaigns influencing ballot issues[1].

James Bopp, an Attorney for FamilyPAC, said that the $5,000 limit during the final 21 days before the November 2009 election prevented the committee from accepting a large contribution to influence Referendum 71 (R-71). If the limits were not in place, the committee would have used the money to run advertisements urging voters to oppose R-71 according to Bopp[1].

The judge cited in the ruling that the recent Citizens United decision made clear that limits on contributions to political committees is unconstitutional. The judge also upheld Washington's minimum reporting thresholds of $25 and $100. Bopp is planning to appeal the judge's decision to uphold the minimum thresholds to the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals[1].

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 [Confirmed via email with James Madison Center on September 7, 2010]