KANSAS CITY — A retired Missouri investment executive who has given millions of dollars to campaigns has filed a lawsuit challenging a proposed ballot measure that seeks to re-establish campaign contribution limits.
The Kansas City Star reported Tuesday that Rex Sinquefield and Travis Brown, a lobbyist for Sinquefield, assert in their lawsuit the proposed contribution limits would infringe rights to free speech and free association. It also asserts the measure's ballot summary and cost estimate are unfair and insufficient. Sinquefield has supported political candidates and campaigns for initiatives.
The lawsuit asserts the contribution limits would "inhibit effective advocacy by those who seek election." It also would make it harder for contributors to target candidates in competitive races or offices in which the donor has a particular interest. Further, the ballot measure critics contend there has not been evidence of corruption to warrant new contribution limits.
Under the proposed ballot measure, donations would be capped at $2,600 for candidates for statewide office or the legislature. It has been proposed by the anti-abortion and anti-embryonic stem cell research organization Missouri Roundtable for Life. It would amend the Missouri Constitution and would appear on the 2014 ballot if sufficient valid signatures are gathered from registered voters.
Missouri Roundtable for Life did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.
The lawsuit was filed this past June in the Capitol's home of Cole County. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Jon Beetem, and no hearing date has been scheduled.
The ballot measure states excessive campaign contributions create the potential for corruption and the appearance of corruption while large campaign contributions give wealthy individuals, corporations and interest groups disproportionate influence.
"We need to restore political campaign contribution limits so that politicians represent Missouri citizens and not special interest groups," said Fred Sauer, the president of Missouri Roundtable for Life, in a statement this past April about the proposal. He donated $300,000 to the organization during a 2006 campaign over a ballot measure dealing with embryonic stem cell research.
Campaign finance rules have been a significant political dispute at the state Capitol in recent years. Missouri first implemented donation caps in the 1990s, and the legislature voted to eliminate them in 2006. That law was overturned by the state Supreme Court because of procedural problems, and the Republican-led legislature voted again to repeal donation limits with about one hour remaining in the 2008 session.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and House Democrats have called for re-reinstating the campaign donation limits. Republican lawmakers have argued that campaign finance caps create an incentive for people to obscure their donations to get around the limits.