Candidate for Wyoming secretary of state settles lawsuit with state over campaign financing

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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — A provision of Wyoming law that restricted third-party political candidate fundraising is unconstitutional and can't be enforced, a federal judge has ordered.

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson on Tuesday approved a settlement agreement ending a lawsuit challenging the fundraising restriction.

Jennifer Young of Torrington, running for secretary of state as a Constitution Party candidate, and one of her supporters, Donald Wills of Pine Bluffs, sued the state. They challenged a state campaign finance law that limited fundraising for candidates whose parties don't participate in primary elections.

Johnson approved a settlement agreement that the Wyoming Attorney General's Office reached with Young and Wills. The order states the fundraising restriction is unconstitutional and can't be enforced.

The contested provision barred third-party candidates from accepting political contributions before the primary election, held Aug. 19 this year. Major party candidates faced no such restriction.

Cheyenne lawyer Steve Klein with the Wyoming Liberty Group and represents Young and Mills.

Klein says the settlement means Young and other third-party candidates may begin fundraising immediately. Klein says his group wants the Legislature to amend state law to reflect the settlement.

"We can't go back in time and fix the damage that's been done, but at least we've remedied it immediately now," Klein said.

Klein said it's unclear what effect the ruling will have on Wyoming's political landscape going forward. He said it's always been difficult to put together a minor party.

"I think the effects could be very big, in the sense that now the funding disparity is gone," Klein said.

"What they do with that is up to them," Klein said. "But I certainly think now that the cultural historic advantages of the Democratic and Republican parties are still there, but at least now the legal monopoly they have is broken."

An attempt to reach Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael for comment about the settlement wasn't immediately successful Wednesday. Young and Wills agreed in the settlement to drop Gov. Matt Mead as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The deal also requires the state to pay more than $7,400 in legal fees.

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