(CN) – Florida cannot block minors from donating more than $100 to political candidates or organizations, a federal judge ruled, noting that there was not a sufficient state interest to justify the infringement of free-speech rights.
Julie Towbin filed suit in the Southern District of Florida when she became concerned that the $150 entry price for a political event organized by the Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee would put her squarely in violation of the law.
Section 106.08 of state law makes it a misdemeanor for an unemancipated child under the age of 18 to make political contributions greater than $100. Repeated infractions of the law constitute a third-degree felony. The analogous law for adults carries a $500 cap.
Towbin, a former page for the U.S. House of Representatives, claimed that the law kept her from giving the desired amount of financial support to candidates and political action committees in 2012.
Florida offered a variety of defenses of the law in fighting Towbin’s motion for a preliminary injunction, such as the claim that it ensures equal expression of speech among minors, no matter their financial resources.
A less strict law would also let parents use minors as straw contributors to circumvent the contribution limits that apply to them, according to the state.
But U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams found that none of the state’s arguments would carry the day.
“One problem with the state’s position in this case is that while preventing corruption and its appearance is a compelling state interest, the state fails to show either that a corruption concern prompted the Legislature’s enactment or that the limit now imposed furthers that anti-corruption interest in the manner prescribed here,” Williams wrote.