By Scott Blackburn
To understand the differences in how states restrict citizens’ abilities to support their favored candidates and causes, the Institute for Free Speech categorized each of the 50 states’ contribution-limit laws and measured their impact on free speech. The result is the first of its kind “Free Speech Index.”
To those familiar with the politics of campaign finance law, the results may be surprising. Eleven states have no limits whatsoever on individual contributions to candidates. They include liberal Oregon and deep-red Alabama (both tied for first in the Index). They include the second most populous state, Texas (ranked 9th), and the third least populous state, North Dakota (ranked 9th). They include eastern states (9th ranked Pennsylvania), western states (1st ranked Utah), midwestern states (7th ranked Iowa) and southern states (1st ranked Virginia)…
Twenty-eight states have no restriction on how much an individual can contribute to a political party, among them liberal stalwart Washington (ranked 20th), conservative stronghold South Carolina (ranked 35th), and swing state Wisconsin (ranked 22nd). But West Virginia (ranked 49th) and Rhode Island (ranked 42nd) have decided to limit individual donations to parties to just $1,000. Massachusetts (ranked 44th) allows contributions from unions to candidates, but prohibits contributions entirely from corporations, while New Hampshire (ranked 39th) prohibits union to candidate contributions altogether and allows corporations to donate directly. Neighboring Vermont (ranked 21st) allows both unions and corporations to contribute.