Federal Appeals Court Upholds Kentucky's Ban on Lobbyist Contributions

May 30, 2019

A federal appeals court issued a ruling on Thursday upholding Kentucky’s ban on contributions and gifts from lobbyists. 

Credit Public Domain

The lawsuit was filed by Republican State Senator John Schickel of Union and David Watson who ran unsuccessfully for the 6th District House seat in 2016.

They claimed several of Kentucky’s campaign finance and ethics statutes violated their First and 14th Amendment rights.  Several members of Kentucky’s Registry of Election  Finance  and  Legislative  Ethics  Commission were named as defendants in the suit. 

In 2017, U.S. Distrit Judge William Bertelsman struck down the ban, ruling that Kentucky’s laws burdened “core political speech” and curtailed freedom of association. 

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed the ruling and said the measures “enacted to prevent corruption and protect citizens’ trust in their elected officials, comport with the Constitution." 

"This decision is a clear win for the integrity of the legislative process," said Judge Anthony Wilhoit, chairman of the Legislative Ethics Commission.

The General Assembly passed major ethics reforms in 1993 following the Boptrot scandal, an FBI investigation that resulted in about a dozen lawmakers being convicted of taking bribes to pass legislation that benefited the horse industry.

According to the Legislative Ethics Commission, no Kentucky legislator has been indicted or convicted of misusing their office in the 26 years since those sweeping reforms.