Hawaii Federal Court Enjoins Limit on Contributions Received By Political Committees Doing Only Independent Spending

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BY JAMES BOPP, JR. — A federal court in Hawaii has stopped the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission from enforcing a limit on contributions received by political committees doing only independent spending for political speech.
Hawaii residents Jimmy Yamada and Russell Stewart want to contribute $2500 to the Aloha Family Alliance – Political Action Committee before the 2010 general election.
Hawaii law limits their contributions to $1000 each for the 2010 primary and the 2010 general election, so Yamada and Stewart’s contributions would be illegal.
However, the federal court held that the limit is unconstitutional as applied to contributions to PAC’s only doing independent expenditures.  The only government interest that suffices to limit political speech is the prevention of corruption of candidates or officeholders, or its appearance.  The committee’s speech is entirely independent.  The committee does not coordinate its speech with candidates for state or local office in Hawaii, their authorized committees, their agents, or state or local political parties in Hawaii. Therefore, the government’s interest in preventing corruption of candidates or officeholders does not suffice to limit contributions to AFA-PAC.
“This holding is in line with holdings from three federal courts of appeal, including the Ninth Circuit, which includes Hawaii,” said James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for the plaintiffs.  “Limiting contributions to political committees doing only independent spending for political speech is unconstitutional.”
The court put its order on hold temporarily to allow the defendants to move for an injunction pending appeal by Oct. 12.  Given that the Ninth Circuit recently held that contribution limits to independent expenditure committees are unconstitutional, such a motion should be unlikely to succeed.
The case is titled Yamada v. Kuramoto, and is in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.
James Bopp, Jr. has a national campaign finance and election law practice with Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom. He is General Counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech.