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Campaign Reforms - Contribution Limits in Akron

In March 1998, the Akron City Council was scheduled to vote on an oil drilling project. On the evening of the vote, a member of the Akron City Council approached another Council member in the men's room at City Hall and handed him an envelope full of cash, saying the money came from parties interested in the oil drilling project.

When the disgraceful incident became public, Akron citizens responded by approving a new campaign finance law with strict new contribution limits and disclosure requirements. The reform referendum was supported by 68% of the electorate, despite the active opposition of the City Council incumbents. After failing to stop reform at the ballot box, a number of City Council members sued to invalidate the law, alleging that the limits of $300 for mayoral races and $100 for city council races infringed the First Amendment. The City of Akron, instead of leading the defense of the law, joined the plaintiffs in arguing that it was unconstitutional, leaving the defense of the law to a group of local reform advocates in Akron who intervened in the case.

In July 2002, the Akron reformers asked NVRI to join the legal battle, seeking NVRI's assistance in defending a victory they had won in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The Sixth Circuit's had upheld the constitutionality of the law by a 2-1 decision, but the plaintiffs and the City of Akron filed a petition asking the Court to vacate the decision and grant en banc rehearing by the full Sixth Circuit. When the Court of Appeals issued an order requiring a response to the petition, NVRI joined the case on behalf of the intervenors. On July 24, 2002, NVRI filed a response defending the constitutionality of Akron's contribution limits and urging the Court to deny the plaintiffs' request for further review. A decision on the petition is expected later this summer, and NVRI will continue to represent the intervenors as co-counsel in any further appellate proceedings before the Sixth Circuit or U.S. Supreme Court. The intervenors in the case are the Yes on 11 Campaign, Greg Coleridge, Bruce Kilby, Patricia Longville, and Mike Parsons. Co-counsel are Warner Mendenhall and Brian J. Williams of Akron, Ohio.

To read more about this case, visit our legal library