Out-of-State Groups Challenge Kentucky Election Finance Law
Out-of-state groups are challenging one of Kentucky’s election finance laws in federal court.
Attorneys for the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit Thursday morning on behalf of a non-profit called Protect My Check Inc., which is based in Florida, against officials at the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. The lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
Protect My Check pushes for right-to-work laws nationwide and has been active with local governments in Kentucky.Labor groups have fought right-to-work laws because they eliminate the requirement that workers pay union dues as a condition of their employment.
Brent Yessin, of Protect My Check,said throughout the process of trying to get these laws on the books in Kentucky, he found that unions had the ability to give money to political candidates but the corporations that hire those workers do not.
“So they are arguing against [right-to-work laws] ,” Yessin explained. “We are advocating for it and they can write checks to the people who vote on it and we can’t. So we start at a disadvantage.”
That’s why attorneys with the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank, are representing Yessin’s group.
The groups are challenging a statute that prohibits corporations from making political contributions to political parties, candidates and committees. However, Limited Liability companies, or LLCs, and unions can contribute.
“There is discrimination in Kentucky law,” said Goldwater Institute Attorney Jim Manley. “Unions are allowed to contribute to candidates but corporations are not. It’s a fundamental issue of unfairness that one side of the bargaining table is allowed to contribute to candidates and the other side is shut out of the political process.”
The legal challenge is asking that the court rule that the ban is unconstitutional, as well as to enjoin the ban.
“It’s just fundamentally unfair,” Manley said. “It violates the equal protection clause for that reason and it violates the first amendment totally because it limits totally corporations’ ability to support candidates that they agree with.”
The lawsuit names officials at the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance as defendants in the case. That includes KREF Chairman Craig Dilger and KREF Executive Director John Steffen.
When reached, Steffen said he couldn't comment on the lawsuit because he hadn’t seen it. He also said his agency is required to follow the state’s Constitution.