Wills v. Maxfield

Wills v. Maxfield
Stephen Klein, Benjamin Barr, Boyd Wiggam

Filed:

June 25, 2014 (United States District Court for the District of Wyoming)

Causes of Action:

  1. Wyoming law prohibits minor party and independent candidates and their contributors from raising or contributing funds for the general election before the date of the major party primary election. This is an unconstitutional prior restraint of free speech under the First Amendment.
  2.  Wyoming law allows major party candidates to raise up to $1,000 in the primary election from a single contributor and then an additional $1,000 from the same contributor in the general election, while minor party and independent candidates and their contributors are limited to $1,000. This disparity unconstitutionally violates equal protection of the law under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Summary:
In Wyoming, Republican and Democrat candidates can raise money for state primary races and, by extension, the general election any time between elections.  But candidates like Jennifer Young, who was nominated as the Constitution Party candidate for Wyoming Secretary of State through party convention, do not run in a primary and cannot raise contributions outside of their own families until after the primary date. Similarly, Wyoming residents like Don Wills want to contribute to Young and other minor party and independent candidates, but cannot do so until the date of the primary.

This is censorship, plain and simple.

Furthermore, a major party candidate can raise up to $1,000 from a contributor for a primary election and then raise another $1,000 from the same contributor for the general election. This unequal treatment of minor party and independent candidates and their contributors is not just unfair, it’s unconstitutional.

We brought suit on behalf of both Jennifer Young and Don Wills to end the enforcement of these unconstitutional laws.

Procedural History:

  • On June 25, 2014, we filed suit on behalf of Jennifer Young and Don Wills in Wyoming federal court against Governor Matt Mead and Secretary of State Max Maxfield in their official capacities. The complaint is available here.
  • On July 2, 2014, we filed a motion for preliminary injunction asking the court to halt the enforcement of the laws at issue. The memorandum in support of this motion is available here.
  • On July 16, 2014, the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office responded to the motion for injunction, agree that it should issue.
  • On August 5, 2014, we entered a stipulated notice of settlement with the Court. Judge Alan Johnson issued our proposed consent order on August 6, permanently halting the enforcement of the law in question against Young, Wills, and all other minor party and independent candidates and their contributors.

Outcome:

An excellent victory for free speech and equal protection under the law. Minor parties and independent candidates will still face great challenges against the cultural and historic advantages of major party candidates, but no longer does Wyoming campaign finance law support the two-party monopoly.

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