Missouri’s PAC-to-PAC donation ban held unconstitutional in federal appeals court

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A federal appeals court has agreed with a lower court’s ruling that Missouri cannot ban contributions between political action committees.

On Monday, the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the ban on PAC-to-PAC donations is unconstitutional given that it violates free speech laws.

“The district court concluded that the prohibition unconstitutionally infringed on a political action committee’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. We agree and therefore affirm,” the ruling states.

The decision permanently prevents the Missouri Ethics Commission from enforcing the ban which was passed during the 2016 election cycle.

Seventy percent of Missourians voted for the state constitutional amendment that was aimed at overhauling Missouri’s campaign finance laws. The changed limited contributions to $2,600 per election to individual candidates.

The MEC argued that without the ban on PAC-to-PAC contributions, donors would be able to bypass the individual candidate contribution limit adopted by the voters.

The Association of Missouri Electrical Cooperatives and Legends Bank filed the lawsuit arguing that the law prohibits their free speech and stops them from donating to campaigns and PACs.  

The courts sided against the MEC, stating that, “In this case, Missouri has not demonstrated a substantial risk that unearmarked PAC-to-PAC contributions will give rise to quid pro quo corruption or its appearance.”

The court noted that preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption is the “only one legitimate state interest” in restricting campaign finances. The decision noted, “the transfer ban, however, does little, if anything, to further the objective of preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

Read the full ruling here.

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.