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Court Sides with Maine in Election Law Dispute
08/11/2011   Reported By: Keith Shortall

There was a win for Maine's election laws today in the form of a decision handed down by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. The court has upheld the constitutionality of Maine's reporting requirements for political action committees, rejecting a challenge brought by the National Organization for Marriage.

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Court Sides with Maine in Election Law Dispute
Originally Aired: 8/11/2011 5:30 PM

The ruling is the latest shoe drop in an ongoing legal dispute between the state of Maine and the National Organization for Marriage, the New Jersey-based organization that works to defeat same sex-marraige laws around the country.

NOM, which was the major funder behind the effort to overturn Maine's same sex marriage law two years ago, had had challenged the constitutionality of Maine's election law, claiming that its reporting requirements for political action committties are vague and over-broad.

District Court Judge Brock Hornby ruled against NOM on most of its challenge, and now the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals has also weighed in, siding with the state of Maine.

"That's correct, NOM had made 'vagueness' claims and First Amendement claims, and the 1st Circuit rejected all of them," says Tom Knowlton, an assistant state attorney general who serves as counsel for the Maine Ethics Commission. "The 1st Circuit has upheld the constitutionality of Maine's laws that require the disclosure of contributions and expenditures in candidate elections by PACs and by independent groups."

Knowlton says this particular challenge is related to NOM's attempt to influence legislative races in Maine last year. The decision also overturns a portion of the lower court ruling that had found that the words "influence " and "influencing" are unconstitutionally vague as applied in the Maine statute.

Knowlton says the legal dispute between NOM and the state of Maine doesn't end with this ruling. "There is another lawsuit pending at the 1st Circuit reguarding NOM's challenge to the 'Ballot Question Committee' laws, that deals with laws requiring disclosures of expenditures and contributions in connection with the ballot question from 2009," he says.

That ballot question read: "Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?"

Maine Voters approved the question, repealing the law that had been approved by the Legislature and signed by then-Gov. John Baldacci earlier in the year.

A spokesman for the National Organization for Marriage could not be reached for comment by airtime.


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