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Campaign Caps Held to Violate 1st Amendment.

In a blow to municipal authority, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal in the case of Kruse v. Cincinnati which ruled unconstitutional a Cincinnati ordinance capping city council campaign expenditures at $140,000, or three times a councilmember's annual salary. The denial of appeal came without comment by the Supreme Court. Thirty three states and the territory of Guam had filed amicus briefs in support of Cincinnati's position, to no avail.

The decision, rendered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, reaffirmed the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in the landmark election spending case of Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976) which ruled that setting limits on campaign expenditures violated the First Amendment freedom of speech rights and was, therefore, unconstitutional.

This case is important to cities because it establishes federal precedent prohibiting local regulation of campaign expenditures.

The City of Cincinnati specifically argued the ordinance should stand for the following policy reasons:

* Candidates without access to wealth are excluded from the electoral process;

* Voters are deprived of a full slate of candidates because otherwise qualified individuals are excluded from running by cost-prohibitive campaigns;

* Voters are deprived of hearing candidates with lesser resources because wealthy candidates effectively drown them out; and

* Voters without access to wealth cannot be heard by candidates because they are drowned out by contributors with more money and influence.

The 6th Circuit, however, rejected these arguments and held that "spending money on one's own speech must be permitted ... a candidate has a constitutional right to spend unlimited amounts of money in order to be elected." The Court further held that expenditure limitations restrict political expression at the core of the electoral process and the First Amendment.
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Title Annotation:campaign funds
Author:Parnas, Susan M.
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 30, 1998
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