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Missouri pays $500,000 after losing campaign finance lawsuit

July 3, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri taxpayers footed a more than $500,000 legal bill after the state attorney general lost a case defending a new campaign finance law.

Taxpayers paid attorneys for two lobbying groups that opposed the limits a combined total of roughly $508,000, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday.

Attorney Chuck Hatfield represented the Association of Missouri Electrical Cooperatives in a lawsuit to overturn the ban. Todd Graves represented the American Democracy Alliance. The attorneys charged up to $575 an hour for their work against the law.

At issue is part of a 2016, voter-approved campaign finance law that banned campaign contributions between political action committees. More than 70% of Missouri voters approved the law, which also capped contributions to individual candidates to $2,600 per election and donations to political parties to $25,000.

Opponents argued the ban on PAC-to-PAC giving would limit interest groups’ ability to have members’ voices heard through political fundraising.

The Missouri Ethics Commission, represented by the state attorney general’s office, argued that the ban ensured that political donors couldn’t evade the individual contribution limit of $2,600 by funneling money through PACs.

But federal judges ultimately sided with the lobbying groups, ruling that the ban violated free speech laws . U.S. District Court Senior Judge Ortrie Smith in April ordered the state of Missouri to pay the electrical co-op and American Democracy Alliance’s attorney fees.

Hatfield said his experience in campaign finance law merited his $570 hourly rate. He argued that he “has advised numerous clients on both Missouri and federal campaign finance law and is well versed in the subject.”

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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