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Federal Court Rules in Favor of Graves Garrett Clients

Part of Missouri Constitution Invalidated

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (May 5, 2017) – Graves Garrett is pleased to announce that the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri entered judgment against the Missouri Ethics Commission and in favor of Graves Garrett clients Free and Fair Election Fund, Missourians for Worker Freedom, American Democracy Alliance, and others. In November 2016, Missouri voters adopted the controversial “Amendment 2,” which amended the Missouri Constitution to ban certain entities from making contributions to political committees, as well as limit campaign contributions.

“The federal district court’s order provides an example of federal judiciary’s essential role in protecting First Amendment rights from infringement by states, even an unlawful state constitutional amendment,” said Graves Garrett partner Eddie Greim, who with partner Todd Graves and associate Alan Simpson served as counsel. “Amendment 2 is deeply flawed. It even prohibited its opponents from spending their own money to ask voters to fix its unconstitutional provisions. But today’s judgment sends a clear message that a statewide vote cannot trump the freedom of speech.”

Amendment 2 sought to limit the amount of contributions to political action committees, including committees that do not make candidate contributions. Amendment 2 also prevented certain types of corporations from contributing to political action committees (“PACs”) and contained vague provisions regarding how contribution limits would apply. The federal district court enjoined the Missouri Ethics Commission from limiting contributions to PACs. The court established standards for what contribution limits apply to and held that Amendment 2 unconstitutionally tried to exclude certain types of corporations like state-chartered banks from contributing to PACs.

Another significant provision of Amendment 2 banned corporations and labor unions from making contributions (donations or money or any other thing of value) to political committees (referred to in Missouri as “campaign committees”) that only spend money on ballot measures. This provision violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri recognized, banning corporate and union contributions for ballot measure advocacy has been invalid under the First Amendment for nearly 40 years. This judgment is the first of its kind preventing enforcement of Amendment 2.

Defendant Missouri Ethics Commission (“MEC”) originally sought to avoid judgment in the case by asserting that it would simply choose not to enforce the Missouri Constitution. At trial, however, the MEC admitted that the federal court had jurisdiction and a permanent injunction preventing the MEC from enforcing this provision in the Missouri Constitution, or investigating alleged violations of it, was appropriate. The federal court agreed.

Complying with Missouri’s Amendment 2 often requires an understanding of campaign finance law as well as First Amendment law. As courts sort out challenges to Amendment 2, Graves Garrett’s Free Speech and Election Law practice is uniquely positioned to provide advice regarding the growing and highly-regulated field of political and election-related speech. Graves Garrett regularly represents clients in state administrative proceedings and investigations, state and federal litigation, and compliance matters.


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