Judge says limiting contributions to Kentucky school board candidates unconstitutional

By Steve York - email

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - A federal judge Friday has ruled that a Kentucky law limiting individual campaign contributions to candidates for school boards in Kentucky to no more than $100 is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves says the current law violates a constitutional right of association.

Focusing primarily on the cost of political campaigns in Jefferson County, Judge Reeves wrote "campaigns for school board have become increasingly expensive as a result of large independent expenditures by the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA)."

He went on to say the current state law limiting individual contributions to $100, "effectively nullifies their [candidates] ability to mount a campaign based on individual donations."

Judge Reeves noted that in 2008 the JCTA spent nearly $150,000 to support one candidate for the Jefferson County School Board.  He pointed out that JCTA spent "well over $100,000" in support of other individual candidates in other races. "In contrast", Reeves wrote, "candidates who rely on individual donations must raise support in $100 increments."

The lawsuit challenging the campaign limit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Benjamin Foster and Edward Britton. Foster was a candidate for the Jefferson County School Board in 2008, losing to current board member Larry Hujo.

Judge Reeves' decision to grant a preliminary injunction prevents the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance from enforcing the law limiting contributions in this year's election cycle. That means individuals may contribute up to $1,000 for a candidate for school board, the same limit imposed on other candidates for office in Kentucky.

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