Monday, July 28, 2008

Tidmore on Fahrenholtz

Christopher Tidmore of The Louisiana Weekly has written a very good article about the effect that Jimmy Fahrenholtz's departure from the Second District Congressional race would have on the Democratic primary.

There are some points, though, that should be clarified.

Tidmore writes:

"Filing documents for the race ask whether there are outstanding fines owed. Technically, as Fahrenholtz has argued, this question is directed at federal accounts. A candidate for Congress must maintain a separate campaign account for his federal election; cannot transfer any resources from his state account or use his state account to aide his race; and he answers to the Federal Election Commission, not the Louisiana State Board of Ethics. All campaign documents go to the FEC, for example."

The argument that a Congressional candidate is only required to affirm that he does not owe any fines from federal campaigns is an interesting one, but there's no basis for that argument in the state statute, the qualifying form, the U.S. Constitution, or the case law. However, that's not really the issue in the Fahrenholtz case.

Also, the filing documents do not actually "ask" whether there are outstanding fines owed. If they did, then Fahrenholtz could have simply answered "yes." Part of the problem is the fact that it is impossible to sign the required form without affirming that all the statements on it (even the ones that are not legally relevant) are true.

Tidmore continues:

"Houma attorney Conrad S.P Williams III alleged in his lawsuit that the state sets the qualifications for Congressional candidates. If state law requires fines to be paid, then Louisiana law can be used as a justification to jettison a congressional candidate from a contest."

There's no doubt that states do not have the constitutional authority to set the qualifications for Congressional candidates. That's been well established. The question is whether the requirement that candidates not owe any campaign finance fines is a "qualification."

If so, then it's unconstitutional.

Of course, state law could still require that the fines be paid; it just couldn't use the non-payment of these fines as the basis for disqualifying someone from the Congressional ballot.


Clancy said...

Randall, I'm in Montana and out of the loop on this story. Fahrenholtz's writ application was due at the Louisiana Supreme Court at noon on Monday. Did he file? Just checking in and figured you'd be up on the latest.

Randall said...

According to Ballot Access News, Fahrenholtz has filed his writ application with the Louisiana Supreme Court: