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Second Circuit upholds (maybe) Vermont's campaign finance law

AP reports: A divided federal appeals court reiterated its approval of limits in Vermont on how much political candidates can spend even if they aren't getting public funding.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said Wednesday in a 2-1 decision that Vermont has an important governmental interest in imposing limits to fight "the real and apparent corruption that accompanies unlimited campaign gifts."

Vermont set the limits when it passed in 1977 a comprehensive campaign finance reform package regulating contributions, expenditures and disclosures related to candidates and political organizations in state elections.

Three lawsuits challenged the law's constitutionality, saying it infringed on First Amendment rights to free speech and political association. ...

In a 98-page decision Wednesday, the court said it found "constitutionally compelling" the need to prevent the reality and appearance of corruption. It then sent the case back to the lower court in Vermont to determine whether the Legislature might have chosen another type of regulation or higher limits that would still achieve its goals but would pose less of a threat to the First Amendment. -- Appeals court says Vermont can limit campaign spending but returns case to lower court (AP via Newsday.com)

The opinions are here. Search for 00-9159. (I got an error when I tried to retrieve the PDF of the decision.)

I asked James Bopp, who challenged the Vermont law, and NVRI, who defended the law, for comments. I have received only a press release from NVRI. Here's an excerpt:

“This is a major victory for democracy,” says Brenda Wright, managing attorney for the National Voting Rights Institute and lead counsel for a coalition of Vermont voters, candidates and public interest groups helping to defend the law. “For nearly thirty years, this country has witnessed how the endless chase for dollars turns our political campaigns into auctions and threatens the integrity of our elections. As a result of this ruling, we have a critical new tool for reducing the dominance of money in politics.”

When I get responses from the others, I will post them.