Libertarian Fight Over Kentucky Campaign Laws Tossed as Moot

CINCINNATI (CN) – A legislative amendment that allows minor parties to establish caucus campaign committees moots a challenge to Kentucky’s campaign-finance laws brought by a Libertarian candidate, the Sixth Circuit ruled.

In an unpublished opinion released Wednesday, U.S. Circuit Judge Deborah L. Cook wrote for a three-judge panel that the revision to the pertinent law “extinguished the controversy” created when Libertarian David Watson sued the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, or KREF.

The case was argued last October, with Watson claiming the state’s finance laws violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause by allowing only the Republican and Democratic parties to create caucuses, which allow for additional fundraising opportunities.

A district judge agreed with Watson and struck down the law, but a 2018 amendment passed by the Kentucky General Assembly corrected the problem.

The amendment added language to allow “minor political parties” to create caucuses of their own, and Judge Cook concluded Watson’s appeal was mooted by the change.

“The new statute does not operate in the same fundamental way as the old,” she wrote. “Unamended, the definitional provision excluded committees affiliated with the Libertarians or political groups other than the Republicans and Democrats.”

Cook continued, “Now, the definitional provision provides for just that. The Kentucky General Assembly enacted a revised statute permitting minor political parties, including Watson’s, to organize and establish a caucus campaign committee and thereby extinguished the controversy over the former definition presented to the district court.”

Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Gilbert S. Merritt and U.S. Circuit Judge Joan L. Larsen also sat on the panel.

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