Restoring America claims First Amendment rights violated by Kentucky ad ban

The Lexington Herald-LeaderOctober 19, 2011 

FRANKFORT, Ky. — An outside political group that has run television ads against Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has appealed an order barring the ads from running in Kentucky, saying the ruling violated the group's First Amendment right to free speech.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate issued a restraining order on Monday after hearing arguments from the Kentucky Democratic Party. The order said Restoring America violated the state's campaign finance laws by not reporting its individual donors and banned the group from running advertisements that advocate for a candidate or a slate of candidates.

Wingate issued his restraining order on the same day that Restoring America released four TV ads attacking Beshear or supporting his chief rival, Republican Senate President David Williams. Those ads were no longer airing on Lexington television stations Tuesday evening.

Restoring America listed Restoring America Inc., known as a 527 group because of its federal tax identification, as its sole donor in state campaign finance reports. The filing did not say who gave more than $1.3 million to Restoring America Inc.

An advisory opinion issued by the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance earlier this year said organizations could not use "pass through" entities to hide the names of donors if the organization was created solely to raise funds for a specific campaign.

Douglas Hallock, a Louisville lawyer who represents Restoring America, argued in court documents filed with the Kentucky Court of Appeals on Tuesday that the Kentucky Democratic Party and Wingate assumed that Restoring America Inc. was solely created for the 2012 gubernatorial race.

The Kentucky Democratic Party's "assumptions are without evidentiary basis," Hallock wrote.

Restoring America also argues that the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance is the appropriate venue to determine campaign finance laws, not circuit court. Moreover, Restoring America was not given notice of the Monday hearing before Wingate, even though the Democratic Party filed documents with the court that contained Restoring America's contact information.

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