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Wed., Oct. 6, 2010, 12:04 p.m.

9th Circuit keeps donor restrictions on ballot measures

OLYMPIA -- Washington's $5,000 limit on donations to initiative campaigns in the last three weeks of the election should remain in place for now, a federal appeals court ruled.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled last month the state's limit on contributions was an unconstitutional infringement on free speech, although he kept in place a requirement that anyone giving more than $25 be named.

Family PAC, an arm of the socially conservative Family Policy Institute of Washington, had argued that the monetary limit clearly violated a person's right to free speech, which includes the right to make contributions to causes they want to advance.

With the November 2 election looming and nine measures on the statewide ballot, the state asked for a temporary stay of that ruling as it presses its appeal. The 9th Circuit Court agreed this week, saying Washington and its voters "have a significant interest in preventing the state’s longstanding campaign finance laws from being upended by the courts so soon before the upcoming election.”

Under the rule, a campaign can't receive a contribution from any donor in the last three weeks before an election that would bring that person or group's total contributions to more than $5,000. There is an exeption for state political party committees.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.