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Zimmerman lawsuit update

Friday, January 15, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Federal Judge Lee Yeakel has given the lawyers for the city of Austin and City Council Member Don Zimmerman extra time to file their legal briefs in Zimmerman’s lawsuit challenging Austin’s campaign finance scheme. Renea Hicks, outside counsel for the city, said Thursday that both sides now have until Feb. 2 to finish their written arguments. After that, he said, he would not be surprised if Yeakel asked the lawyers to make oral arguments before the court. Zimmerman is challenging the $350-per-person limit on donations for Council races as well as the six-month window for raising contributions and the $36,000 cap on contributions from people who live outside Austin and surrounding ZIP codes. Additionally, he is challenging a city regulation that prevents winning Council members from keeping any contributions they do not spend in a campaign war chest. Austin’s rules state that a Council member may keep $20,000 for his or her own officeholder account but must give back the rest to donors or an appropriate charity. Council members who drew two-year terms after the 2014 election, including Zimmerman, will be able to start raising money for the November 2016 election in May. When he filed suit last year, the District 6 Council member hoped to conclude the lawsuit soon enough to be able to raise money before May. That now seems highly unlikely because after the judge rules, the losing party is likely to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. The loser in that arena could then appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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