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New campaign disclosure law is on the books

on September 19, 2012

The city’s campaign disclosure law—which a federal judge suggested was unconstitutional earlier this month— was amended by the City Council Tuesday night.

In a special meeting five days earlier to read through the amendments, Councilmember Jim Rogers said the revisions toned down the ordinance’s aggressiveness.

“I guess you could look at [the original ordinance] as a Cadillac,” Rogers said. “And this one here, I guess you could look at it as a Ford.”

The revisions to the ordinance addressed several concerns raised by Federal Judge Charles R. Breyer in a temporary restraining order he granted to the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, which filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance in late August.

The amendments remove criminal penalties, edit the language to clarify the law’s intended targets, and eliminate a requirement that a group that has received more than one-third of its contributions from funders outside of Richmond write on its mailings “major funding from out-of-city contributors.”

The revised ordinance will still require committees that meet a certain financial threshold to list their major contributors on the front page of their mailings.

Councilmember Jovanka Beckles said Tuesday that the law was important to keep because it gives voters important context.

“What we’re doing here that I’m very, very proud of as City Council is we’re protecting citizens from deceptive campaigns,” Beckles said.

The amendments were passed 5-2 and will take effect October 18.

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