Court halts state limits on late ballot donations

OLYMPIA — A state law that restricts large donations to ballot measures in the weeks before an election is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the limits improperly restrain free speech. The laws had prohibited donations exceeding $5,000 in the 21 days before a general election.

Washington’s attorney general had argued that that the rules were necessary to ensure that mail-in voters knew who was funding the ballot measures. The court rejected that argument, saying voters who cast a ballot before Election Day make that choice on their own and that donation information is reported regularly in those final days.

“Washington’s limit nonetheless imposes a significant burden, because it limits contributions during the critical three-week period before the election, when political committees may want to respond to developing events,” the judges wrote.

The court, however, did approve of a requirement to identify donors who contribute more than $25. Family PAC, a political group involved in the 2009 referendum on expanded domestic partnerships for gay couples, had sued over that law.

Bill Maurer, the executive director of the Institute for Justice Washington Chapter, said the court correctly struck down the contribution limits but left burdensome reporting rules standing.

“Under our Constitution, the government has no role in collecting and disseminating the names, addresses, employers, occupations or other information of ordinary Americans just because they gave $25.01 to support or oppose a ballot measure,” he said in a statement.

Public Disclosure Commission spokeswoman Lori Anderson said she was happy that the disclosure requirements were upheld. Janelle Guthrie, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Rob McKenna, said the office was reviewing options on the court’s decision regarding last-minute contributions.

“State law was designed to prevent attempts to secretly influence elections with large, last-minute contributions, and we’re reviewing how this decision impacts the state’s ability to prevent that,” Guthrie said.

The ruling came two months after Costco Wholesale Corp. committed some $22 million to a plan to privatize liquor sales. The company’s largest donation — about $9 million — came a little more than three weeks before the election, right before the $5,000 limit would take effect.

———

Associated Press writer Rachel La Corte contributed to this report.

More in Local News

Mayor tries new tactic to curb fire department overtime

Stephanson says an engine won’t go into service when the only available staff would be on overtime.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Paine Field fire chief will be allowed to retire

In his letter, the airport director noted Jeff Bohnet was leaving while under investigation.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

Lynnwood man allegedly cuts Marysville’s 911 dispatch wires

The man reportedly told police he intended to trade the wires for drugs.

Ian Terry / The Herald Westbound cars merge from Highway 204 and 20th Street Southeast onto the trestle during the morning commute on Thursday, March 30 in Lake Stevens. Photo taken on 03302017
Pay a toll on US 2 trestle? 10,000 say no on social media

A GOP lawmaker’s chart shows theoretical toll rates of up to $6.30 to cross the trestle one way.

Most Read