July 17, 2017

Can government force you to pay for your political opponents' campaign contributions?

By Ethan W. Blevins Attorney

Last Friday, the National Review published my op-ed on PLF’s case challenging Seattle’s new-fangled campaign finance scheme. Seattle’s democracy voucher program gives four $25 vouchers to each Seattle resident per election cycle. They can use those vouchers to support local political campaigns. The voucher money comes from the pockets of property owners through a dedicated property levy. As the op-ed discusses, the First Amendment forbids government from forcing people to sponsor other people’s political views in this manner.

The op-ed concludes:

We treasure the First Amendment because it upholds human dignity — the power to shape our identity by what we believe and express. That dignity is sullied by a government that forces its people to serve as unwilling vessels for beliefs that repel them. As Thomas Jefferson said, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.” The supporters of the voucher program want to force property owners to underwrite partisan political donations in the name of democracy. I don’t think that word means what they think that word means.

Click here to learn more about the case, Elster v. City of Seattle.


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Elster v. City of Seattle, Washington

Representing Seattle residents and property owners, PLF sued to overturn Seattle’s ordinance mandating public campaign financing. Under the city’s “democracy voucher” program, each Seattle resident receives four $25 vouchers to support eligible candidates for local political office. The money to fund the voucher program is taken from the city’s property owners via a dedicated levy. The lawsuit argues that these compelled subsidies violate the First Amendment right to refrain from speaking – or funding the speech of another person.

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