Thursday, October 07, 2010
Judge does not strike down Hawaii law but grants partial injunction in campaign spending limit challenge
by Larry Geller
J. Michael Seabright issued a preliminary injunction on Thursday (10/7/2010) enjoining Hawaii from applying the restrictions of its campaign spending laws to contributions made by two plaintiffs to a particular political action committee. The judge did not strike down Hawaii’s law as unconstitutional.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, Hawaii plaintiffs Jimmy Yamada and Russell Stewart filed a challenge to the constitutionality of several Hawaii campaign spending laws. Judge Seabrook granted an injunction in part, reasoning that the government has no valid constitutional interest in regulating the contributions that plaintiffs want to make to the Aloha Family Alliance – Political Action Committee.
Specifically, Seabright held that there is no legitimate government interest in restricting contributions to organizations that engage only in independent spending, as the Aloha Family Alliance PAC does. He declined to declare the entire law unconstitutional at the preliminary injunction stage.
Thus, while recognizing that there could be some confusion this close to the general election, Seabright let the law stand except when the organization receiving contributions is engaged only in independent spending. That is, it does not contribute directly to candidates, and does not coordinate spending for political speech with candidates or political parties.
In court, the state’s attorneys did not challenge the claim that the Aloha Family Alliance – Political Action Committee is engaged only in independent spending.
Plaintiffs will be free to make their intended $2,500 contributions to the PAC. In fact, it would appear that they could make whatever contributions they choose, as could others to any PAC that is engaged only in independent spending.
Below is a copy of the order. Right click on the link to download your own copy. Click “Fullscreen” below for a larger copy to read here.