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Albuquerque: Spending Limits Still on the Books

Albuquerque has limited spending and contributions in mayoral and city council races from 1974 to 1997. The future of the Albuquerque law now sits before the Supreme Court. After more than twenty successful years, the limits were initially challenged in 1997 in Murphy v. City of Albuquerque. The plaintiffs withdrew their lawsuit in 1998, when lead plaintiff Joe Diaz, an unsuccessful candidate for mayor in 1997, said he did not intend to run again. A subsequent case was then filed. Initially, in Homans v. City of Albuquerque, federal District Judge Martha Vazquez issued a breakthrough ruling on September 1, 2001, upholding the constitutionality of the city's spending caps. Examining Albuquerque's 27 years of experience with spending limits, Judge Vazquez found that the limits had encouraged greater voter turnout and participation in elections, and served the compelling governmental interests of "preserving the public faith in democracy" and "reducing the appearance of corruption." In addition, the spending limits have promoted vibrant, competitive elections, with challengers having far more success against incumbents in Albuquerque mayoral elections than in cities with unrestrained spending. Judge Vazquez's findings represented a highly significant development by demonstrating that limits on campaign spending promote the health of the democratic process.

Albuquerque Spending Limits

After a series of court hearings, however, in April of 2004 the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found the spending limits unconstitutional, ruling that Buckley prohibits any limits on campaign spending regardless of the facts concerning how limits have operated in practice. The Homans case is linked also to a separate lawsuit challenging the limits on city council races, Rue v. City of Albuquerque. The City of Albuquerque, with NVRI's assistance, has now asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the Buckley decision, and uphold the constitutionality of spending limits (see our discussion of Landell v. Sorrell). The petition to the Supreme Court is pending. To read all of the legal papers in this case, click here.

To go directly to the petition for review, click here.

In addition, on October 25, 2004, elected officials, public interest organizations and activists who want the Supreme Court to reconsider the constitutionality of campaign spending limits filed 7 friend-of-the-court briefs asking the court to review the Homans and Rue cases, in which the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Albuquerque's spending limit law unconstitutional. NVRI's brief on behalf of the city of Albuquerque seeking the review was filed in September 2004.

Here are the amicus briefs:

Former Senators Bill Bradley (D-NJ) and Alan Simpson (R-WY)

Senators Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC), Theodore F. Stevens (R-AK), Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), John F. Reed (D-RI), Diane E. Feinstein (D-CA), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA).

Equal Justice Society, NAACP, Fannie Lou Hamer Project, National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, National Bar Association, Latino Issues Forum, and Greelining Institute.

TheRestofUs.org, New Mexico Public Interest Research Group, National Association of State PIRGs, Common Cause, Public Campaign, Demos, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, ReclaimDemocracy.org.

Secretaries of States of Iowa, Oregon, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

Attorneys General of Connecticut, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Fifteen current and former State Court Justices and Judges.

Read More About NVRI's Cases Defending Campaign Spending Limits & Challenging Buckley v. Valeo:

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