Lawsuit filed on Racine man's behalf challenging campaign contribution limit

2013-06-06T15:12:00Z 2014-05-08T10:01:01Z Lawsuit filed on Racine man's behalf challenging campaign contribution limitKRISTEN ZAMBO Journal Times

RACINE — A nonprofit Wisconsin law firm filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Racine man on Thursday challenging the constitutionality of the state’s law capping campaign contributions to politicians and political organizations during a campaign year.

In his suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee against members of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, Racine resident Fred M. Young Jr. states that Wisconsin’s finance cap of $10,000 per year is unconstitutional, violating his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

“The court has recognized that money facilitates speech,” said Young’s attorney, Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. Several court rulings “have made clear the only justification for limiting campaign contributions is to avoid the appearance or actual (risk of) quid pro quo corruption.” The “quid pro quo” exchange would be campaign contributions for votes.

But limiting a person’s overall contributions for the year “simply does not serve that interest, which is why we brought the lawsuit,” Esenberg said. “The U.S. Supreme Court has also made clear that this interest in preventing ‘quid pro quo corruption’ is not” accomplished by limiting overall campaign contributions. “It serves no legitimate state interest.”

That $10,000 is the aggregate amount, meaning a single individual cannot donate more than $10,000 per year, even when distributed among a variety of politicians, political action committees or organizations. And, $10,000 is the individual limit for candidates seeking a statewide office.

Young’s lawsuit seeks to have the aggregate campaign contributions cap of $10,000 invalidated, Esenberg said.

“It’s more severe than the federal limits. The aggregate limit (according to federal law) is something north of $40,000,” he said.

Young said he is a supporter of free speech rights. That $10,000 total yearly campaign contribution cap means he could not donate $10,000 to Scott Walker’s campaign, plus another $500 to his assemblyman. And that also limits the causes and legislative action — such as Act 10 and school choice — which he can support, Young explained.

“In general, campaign finance law is really out of control. I think there ought not to be financial limits, aside from (caps from individuals to single candidates that involve) quid pro quo corruption (risks),” Young said. “The appearance of corruption, quid pro quo corruption, should be avoided. I’m not opposed to individual limits.”

“We just received a copy of the lawsuit this afternoon. We don’t have any comment on it,” said Reid Magney, spokesman for the Wisconsin GAB. “The lawsuit deals with a state statute, and as the agency that administers that, we are the natural defendant.”

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Timothy Vocke, Gerald C. Nichol, Michael Brennan, Thomas Barland, Thomas Cane and David G. Deininger as GAB members.

“We have just received a copy of the lawsuit and will respond to it with our court filing,” Dana

Brueck, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, stated in an email Thursday.

She declined to provide further comment.

Two years ago, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a watchdog group, filed a complaint with the GAB. In it, the group cited Young as violating the state’s $10,000 campaign cap by donating $10,500 to Rep. Gov. Scott Walker.

Young said that experience contributed to his decision to file suit now, but “it’s not what’s driving it,” he said Thursday.

The Walker campaign discovered “that they screwed up,” Young said. A check showed in its memo line that the donation was marked as a “gift from Sandra Young.”

“They failed to recognize that that was a donation from my wife, so they found that I didn’t violate (campaign finance law),” he said.

Young’s lawsuit does not seek monetary damages, but could seek to recoup the costs of his attorneys fees, Esenberg said.

Also on Thursday, Esenberg said his firm filed an amicus brief — known as a “friend of the court” brief — with the U.S. Supreme Court in a case pending before the justices. That case, Shaun McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission, challenges the federal law regulating individuals’ campaign contributions.

Esenberg said that case “has the potential, really, to resolve this case.”

No court dates have been set in Young’s lawsuit.

Copyright 2015 Journal Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. carnut
    Report Abuse
    carnut - June 09, 2013 7:21 pm
    Do you have any comment on campaign finance? If you are literate, which I am having some doubts, you would see the article is about campaign finance.

    If you are going to toss out extreme allegations like environmental terrorism, then offer something to back it up. Which you can't, because it's a petty bully-type of comment that has nothing to do with the topic and based on nothing.
  2. carnut
    Report Abuse
    carnut - June 09, 2013 7:19 pm
    What does this have to do with campaign finance?
    The UAW was running the company into the ground until he moved it, and then he grew the company, adding many jobs and benefits for employees, and then sold it when it was the most profitable. How is that running it into the ground?...idiot.
  3. carnut
    Report Abuse
    carnut - June 09, 2013 7:16 pm
    Ran the company into the ground? Environmental Terrorist? You are idiots. Obviously he ran the company well, created many many jobs, and made it profitable despite the UAW's best efforts to tank it. If the company had stayed in Racine, then the UAW would have run it into the ground. Kind of perplexing how he ended up wealthy if he ran the company into the ground.... If you are going to throw out accusations like environmental terrorism, then back it up. But you can't back it up, because it isn't true. If any of you actually have a legitimate argument to make about the topic, which is campaign finance, then make it. "I come in Peace" and " Kevinsmoms" obviously don't have the brain power to formulate any opinion on the topic of campaign finance. If the best you can do is comment as if you dropped out of school in 1st grade, then please just stick to cartoons and leave political debate to those of us with IQ's over 100 and the capacity to understand the topic.
  4. I Come In Peace
    Report Abuse
    I Come In Peace - June 07, 2013 10:15 am
    Fred Young Jr. is a guy who took his father's company, moved it out of Racine, down south, and ran it into the ground. This guy is something else. Go away.
  5. mt_pleasantly
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    mt_pleasantly - June 07, 2013 8:35 am
    That shirt is hilarious. I don't want to know how you tracked it down.
    Too funny. Thanks.
  6. ggodmuls
    Report Abuse
    ggodmuls - June 07, 2013 7:26 am
    Krishnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

    For all of Racine's "crazy cat ladies" - The Official Spinster Logo. Learn it, Love it, Live it!
  7. pizza dude 56
    Report Abuse
    pizza dude 56 - June 07, 2013 7:19 am
    Thee who has the most money has the loudest voice.....
  8. mt_pleasantly
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    mt_pleasantly - June 07, 2013 6:22 am
    I fail to see where someone is being "punished" by campaign contribution caps.
    Influence of money is the root of government corruption.
  9. Racine Writer
    Report Abuse
    Racine Writer - June 07, 2013 5:40 am
    They are all in on it ggodmuls. You are right! There is no hope. All are corrupt and all is lost. Better head for the hills and leave the Racine area for your own good. Don't risk continued posting. Obamas NSA people will follow the breadcrumbs to your new locale and inform the Dickert people. Best go underground and not come back. Flee before peak oil makes that impossible.
  10. outoftowner53105
    Report Abuse
    outoftowner53105 - June 07, 2013 5:34 am
    "...will probably gain favor for the donor."

    Herein lies the problem. You, and others that would limit campaign donations assume that something illegal will occur simply because donations were given at or above a certain level.

    In no area of law is it permissible to punish a citizen for what MIGHT happen. This law assumes that the donor will receive something in return for the donation absent any proof of intent, indeed absent any proof that anything illegal occurred.

    It's like saying that you cannot have a gun because if you do, you are sure to go rob somebody with it.
  11. kevinsmom68
    Report Abuse
    kevinsmom68 - June 06, 2013 10:54 pm
    Fred Young = environmental terrorist. polluted the ground at young radiator for many years and got away with it scott free
  12. ggodmuls
    Report Abuse
    ggodmuls - June 06, 2013 8:53 pm
    On the other hand huge campaign contributions will probably gain favor for the donor, which is what this is really all about, isn't it?

    Seems to work rather well at Racine City Hall, doesn't it?

    BTW where is Rich Chiapette - still sleeping OR turning a blind eye? Perhaps behind closed doors, there really is no difference between the 2 parties and they are ALL in on it.....
  13. mt_pleasantly
    Report Abuse
    mt_pleasantly - June 06, 2013 5:17 pm
    While you may only contribute 10k in monetary funds, your volunteer time is unlimited. Perhaps it's easier to throw money into a campaign, but a cap on the amount is prudent and necessary.
    We need to take the money out of politics.

    On the other hand huge campaign contributions will probably gain favor for the donor, which is what this is really all about, isn't it?
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