Note to college students who plan to spend big bucks on their campus election campaigns: Avoid the University of Montana. Also, avoid filing lawsuits.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review on Monday a June 2007 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which concluded that spending limits on student-government elections were not a violation of free-speech rights.
In 2004 a student at the University of Montana was denied his seat in the student senate because he had exceeded the $100 spending cap imposed by the university. He then retained the counsel of a prominent lawyer, James Bopp Jr., to challenge the university’s decision. But the university argued that spending limits preserve equal opportunity for all students to win elections, and that argument prevailed.
In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit court concluded that spending limits force students to “campaign personally, wearing out their shoe-leather rather than wearing out a parent’s — or an activist organization’s — pocketbook.”
The Supreme Court’s decision to let that ruling stand makes the Ninth Circuit’s opinion the leading appellate precedent on the matter of spending in student elections. —Elizabeth F. Farrell