Former LP Communications Director Helps Overturn Campaign Speech Restrictions In Colorado

Donny Ferguson recently was the Communications Director for the Libertarian Party. Ballot Access News posts the court’s opinion. From Ferguson’s blog:

DENVER – Federal District Court Judge Walker Miller blocked enforcement Tuesday of parts of Longmont’s “Campaign Practices Act” while the court decides whether it violates free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. The ruling grants a preliminary injunction requested by Longmont residents suing to overturn the act on constitutional grounds.

“Defendants are enjoined, pending the outcome of these proceedings or further order from the Court, from regulating the electioneering communications of [former Longmont Mayor Julia] Pirnack and WTP [Western Tradition Partnership], unless those electioneering communications also simultaneously qualify as “independent expenditures.” Defendants are further enjoined from requiring [Longmont resident Christopher] Rodriguez, LLC [Longmont Leadership Committee], and LAR [Longmont Association of Realtors], to include in the communication the total amount of the expenditure etc. as set forth in this Order,” Federal District Judge Walker D. Miller writes in his ruling.

Judge Miller also noted he was granting the injunction based on strong indications the plaintiffs will win their overall challenge to the Act’s constitutionality.

“Longmont politicians can no longer use an unconstitutional law to harass people who want to publicly discuss real issues,” said Donny Ferguson, spokesman for lead plaintiff Western Tradition Partnership. “We respect Judge Miller’s decision to block its enforcement. There is tremendous case law proving Longmont’s Campaign Practices Act is unconstitutional. We look forward to overturning this law, intended to chill criticism, so can citizens speak openly about the city council without fear of wrongful prosecution.”

Despite promises it would not be used to suppress criticism of city council members outside of electioneering messages, Councilwoman Karen Benker has filed five complaints against citizens who spoke publicly about her record, including messages that were not campaign communications. A Benker supporter has filed another two complaints against residents who do not support her.

One Benker complaint targets a scientific voter opinion poll conducted by a professional firm on behalf of WTP and limited to a random sample of 434 Longmont residents, because the poll asked residents their opinions of some of Benker’s unpopular actions as a city council member.

“Benker’s going so far as to try and stop opinion polling is disturbing. She basically tried to threaten a professional opinion polling firm because a scientific survey found most Longmont residents oppose her radical policies,” said Ferguson.

“Rather than clean up politics, Karen Benker is using the Campaign Practices Act to engage in the dirtiest form of politics – threatening and bullying anyone who questions her. We are grateful the court has suspended enforcement and confident the court will throw out this law intended to discourage citizens from speaking publicly about the Longmont City Council,” said Ferguson.

For more information on this issue, or to schedule an interview, contact Donny Ferguson at 703-200-3669 or DonnyFerguson@gmail.com.

One thought on “Former LP Communications Director Helps Overturn Campaign Speech Restrictions In Colorado

  1. NSFW

    It’s also in The Denver Post.

    http://www.denverpost.com/politics/ci_13618290

    A U.S. District Court judge has suspended portions of Longmont’s campaign-finance rules, saying they appear to violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.

    District Judge Walker Miller on Wednesday granted a preliminary injunction against the city of Longmont and City Clerk Valeria Skitt, preventing any further enforcement of the rules until a full hearing on their constitutionality can be held.

    There was no word today when that hearing will be.

    Miller sided with a group of Longmont activists and others — including the Longmont Association of Realtors and two former mayors — who filed suit, claiming Longmont’s Campaign Practices Act chills their right to express their opinion about City Council candidates or issues.

    They said the campaign-finance rules were either too restrictive or too vague, but violating either could result in fines.

    “Longmont politicians can no longer use an unconstitutional law to harass people who want to publicly discuss real issues,” said Donny Ferguson, spokesman for lead plaintiff Western Traditional Partnership.

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