A federal appeals court yesterday blocked Arkansas from enforcing the law barring candidates from accepting campaign contributions more than two years before an election.

Peggy Jones, a Pulaski County resident and self-described “longtime political activist,” filed a lawsuit last April challenging the state’s “blackout period,” hoping to open the door to perpetual fundraising. Jones’ lawsuit says that she wants to contribute to candidates running in 2022 but cannot under the law, in violation of her First Amendment rights. Money is speech, see. Jones, a Republican activist, has contributed in the past to Tim Griffen, who might have interest in building up his war chest ahead of time in his bid for governor in 2022. Asked by the district court to clarify who she wanted to donate to, she identified Republican Sen. Mark Johnson of Ferndale. She said there were others, but only Johnson was specifically identified.

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U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the law in June, ruling that Jones was likely to win her challenge on the merits. However, he granted a request by the attorney general’s office — defending the law — to stay his ruling pending appeal to the Eighth Circuit.

A three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday upheld Moody’s injunction, which presumably means that once Moody lifts his stay, the floodgates are now open: Fundraising can commence for 2022 and beyond, so long as the injunction remains in place.

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The appeals court found that while Arkansas had a legitimate state interest in trying to prevent corruption, the state “has not shown that contributions made more than two years before an election present a greater risk of actual or apparent quid pro quo corruption than those made later.”

The challenge to the law — which was first approved by voters in 1995, along with other campaign finance measures — is now slated to continue in U.S. District Court in Little Rock.

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