Council to hold public hearing Tuesday on proposed campaign spending limit

Edmonds City Council President Steve Bernheim’s November 2009 proposal to limit campaign contributions to $750 for city council and mayoral elections will get a public hearing at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Steve Bernheim

The public airing comes at a time when campaign contribution limits have dominated the news, given the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection last week of  corporate spending limits on political campaigns.

Berheim addressed that issue in an email to fellow councilmembers last week, noting that they might be asking how the Supreme Court Citizens United case affects his proposed ordinance. “The answer is ‘not at all,'” Bernheim said.

“The court struck down the federal law because it restricted speech based on the identity of the speaker and because it prohibited corporations from engaging in certain electioneering activities other than making campaign contributions,” Bernheim wrote. “The case did not involve contributions to candidates’ campaigns, and the Court referred favorably to prior Supreme Court precedent, Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976) which upheld the constitutionality of limits on direct contributions to candidates.

“My proposal imposes limits only on direct contributions to candidates’ campaigns, the limit that was upheld in Buckley,” he noted. “My proposal is not a speech restriction based on the identity of the speaker or the content of the speech and does not restrict in any way corporate campaign contributions that would be contrary to Citizens United, nor does it in any way prohibit independent, non-campaign expenditures by anyone.”

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