Contribution limit for campaigns is an abridgement of free speech

A judge wisely ruled that Washington's restrictions regarding initiative campaigns are unconstitutional.


The incredible amount of money raised by politicians and spent on political campaigns is outrageous. It can also be distasteful. It creates the impression elections are being purchased.

And this is why government officials-- including Washington state's -- have felt compelled to limit contributions to candidates and groups supporting or opposing initiatives. It is unnecessary -- and unconstitutional.

Earlier this month a federal judge overturned a state law that limits campaign contributions in the final weeks of ballot measure campaigns. The judge made a wise call.

The law at issue bans contributions larger than $5,000 in the final three weeks of an initiative or referendum campaign. Family PAC, a political group involved in the 2009 referendum on expanded domestic partnerships for gay couples, sued the state last year challenging the contribution limit, The Associated Press reported.

Funding a political campaign is a form of speech and the Constitution makes it clear that speech -- particularly political speech -- is protected.

Attorney General Rob McKenna should not appeal the decision. It's a waste of taxpayer dollars as ultimately U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton's ruling will be upheld.

Beyond that, a section of the law that remains does more to serve the public's interests than donation limits. Leighton kept intact the requirement that campaign contributions be disclosed.

It's important the public knows who is financing campaigns. This allows voters to consider the motives of donors and use that information as a factor in whether to support or reject the candidate or cause.

The disclosure mandate in Washington has been tested in court before and has survived the supreme courts of Washington state and the United States. The disclosure mandate has not been seen as an abridgement of free speech.

"Contrary to ... assertions, these disclosure requirements do not restrict political speech -- they merely ensure that the public receives accurate information about who is doing the speaking," state Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote in a majority opinion several years ago.

Knowing how much donated to a campaign -- and who donated it -- is an important part of the democratic process.

And if citizens find dumping tons of money into campaigns distasteful, they can make that known when casting their ballots. Arbitrarily limiting campaign contributions is an unconstitutional intrusion of government.


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