Election funding law's hold to resume

Judge’s injunction upheld on appeal

An order blocking the state from enforcing a law that prohibits campaign contributions more than two years before an election was reinstated Tuesday.

In June, U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of Arkansas Code 7-6-203(e), in response to a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

The law, which applies to contributions for candidates for state office, has been in effect since 1996, when voters approved it as part of a package of amendments to campaign-finance laws. The amendments were aimed at combating corruption, but a Pulaski County woman, Peggy Jones, said it went too far and infringes on her right of political expression.

In June, after presiding over a hearing on the injunction request, Moody found that Jones is likely to succeed on the merits of her case and granted the injunction, prompting an immediate appeal from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office, which is tasked with defending state laws. Moody agreed to stay the injunction, keeping the law in effect, while the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis considered the appeal.

The 8th Circuit affirmed the injunction on Jan. 27, leading Jones' attorney to ask Moody to lift the stay and make the law unenforceable again. On Feb. 10, the attorney general's office said it didn't oppose the request.

[RELATED ª Full coverage of elections in Arkansas ª arkansasonline.com/elections/]

Moody lifted the stay on Tuesday, again enjoining the state from enforcing the law while the lawsuit is pending.

"Today's a happy day," attorney Christoph Keller said Tuesday. "This allows our client and other Arkansans to exercise their First Amendment rights."

Keller took over the case from attorney Chad Pekron, who is about to start a new job next week as lead appellate counsel for Walmart. Keller is with the Quattlebaum, Grooms and Tull law firm, as was Pekron.

Moody hasn't set a date for a final hearing on the matter.

Metro on 03/04/2020