United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington
JOHN SCHICKEL, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS
CRAIG C. DILGER, ET AL. DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM O. BERTELSMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the motion to reconsider and
amend order, or to stay enforcement of order, by the Kentucky
Registry of Election Finance (“KREF”) defendants
(Doc. 125), the plaintiff's response thereto (Doc. 130),
and the defendants' reply brief (Doc. 135). The Court has
reviewed this matter and concludes that oral argument is
6, 2017, this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order
granting in part and denying in part the parties' motions
for summary judgment and plaintiffs' motion for a
permanent injunction. (Doc. 122). The Court held, as relevant
here, that KRS 121.015(3)(b) is unconstitutional as viewpoint
discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
Id. at 6-9. That is, by defining “caucus
campaign committee” to include only Democratic and
Republican caucus campaign committees, the statute prevents
any other caucus campaign committees from enjoying the higher
contribution limits found in KRS 121.150(11).
the KREF defendants argue that the Court improperly found
that “the Democratic and Republican political parties
control caucus campaign committees.” (Doc. 125 at 3).
In support, defendants cite the Court's statement that
“KRS § 121.150(11) allows two specific political
parties to receive the highest contributions: executive
committees of political parties and campaign caucus
committees.” (Doc. 122 at 7). It is true that caucus
campaign committee are not “political parties, ”
and to that extent the statement was inaccurate.
the Court did not make the “finding” that
defendants assert. Nor would it have been necessary to the
Court's legal conclusion, as defendants imply.
See Doc. 125 at 1 (“The Order declares the
definition of caucus campaign committee (KRS 121.015(3)(b))
to be facially unconstitutional based on the mistaken
assumption that caucus campaign committees are controlled by
the Democratic and Republican parties.”) (emphasis
fact, the Court specifically recognized that caucus campaign
committees are separate from the political parties'
executive committees. (Id. at 9). The Court held
that this distinction did not, however, “explain the
exclusionary definition found in subsection (3)(b).”
any such misapprehension determine the level of scrutiny
applied by the Court. But even if a lesser standard applied,
the same legal conclusion ensues because the KREF defendants
have identified no state interest that is served by
limiting the definition of caucus campaign committees to
those labelled only Republican and Democratic. The testimony
cited in plaintiffs' opposition brief makes this
abundantly clear. See Doc. 130 at 7.
the fact that KRS § 121.015(3)(b) excludes all but
Republican and Democratic-labelled caucus campaign committees
from its definition aligns the statute squarely with one of
the dangers identified in Buckley: that
“contribution restrictions could have a severe impact
on political dialogue if the limitations prevented candidates
and political committees from amassing the resources
necessary for effective advocacy.” Buckley v.
Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 21 (1976).
exactly plaintiffs' point here. Because this statute
includes only the committees identified with the two main
political parties, committees identified with any other
political party are unable to avail themselves of the higher
contribution limits found in KRS § 121.150(11). Any such
committees are thereby prevented from raising campaign funds
on a level playing field.
Court uses the term “labelled” above, rather than
“affiliated” or “associated, ” in
recognition of defendants' argument that these committees
are independent bodies who are free to donate their funds to
candidates of any political persuasion. The Court also notes
that defendants have identified two instances where the
Republican-labelled committees have donated to Independent
however, does not advance defendants' cause. One
reasonably assumes that donors give their money to campaign
committees with whom they have a political affinity, and
further that they assume their donations will be spent
accordingly. If not, why label the caucus campaign committees
with party names at all? Putting aside that rhetorical
question, the Court concludes that two instances of
out-of-party candidate contributions do not neutralize the
facial unconstitutionality of the statute.
defendants' suggestion that this constitutional infirmity
might be remedied by simply labelling the caucus campaign
committees “majority” and “minority”
committees is fallacious. Any citizen who is politically
minded enough to donate their money to a caucus campaign
committee will know which of the two main parties is in power
at the time, and they will donate accordingly. And this
suggestion also assumes - like KRS § 121.015(3)(b) -
that only two political parties are in the caucus campaign
on, defendants also lament that invalidating KRS §
121.015(3)(b) while leaving KRS § 121.150(11) intact
“creates a significant void in the campaign finance law
that only the legislature has the authority to fix.”
(Doc. 125 at 2). That may be true. But KRS § 121.150(11)
is not unconstitutional, and the Court thus has no authority
to strike or alter it. Obviously, then, the task falls to the
Kentucky legislature to address these issues and the others
identified by this Court.
Court further finds defendants' request for a stay to be
unwarranted. Staying the effect of these rulings would
irreparably harm plaintiff Watson, who is running for office
in 2018 and ...