NATIONAL NEWS

Judge puts brakes on new law banning foreign government spending on referendums

Mar 1, 2024, 1:16 PM

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A federal judge is delaying the implementation of a voter-approved law in Maine that aimed to close an election law loophole by stopping foreign government spending on state referendum races.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen issued a preliminary injunction on Thursday, the day before the new law was to go into effect, after lawsuits by Maine’s two largest electric utilities and organizations representing newspapers and broadcasters. Torresen concluded there was enough merit in their arguments to delay the law until litigation is completed in federal court.

Federal law already bans foreign influence in candidate elections, but many Maine voters were irked over $22 million spent by a Canadian utility to fight state referendums on a hydropower transmission project. Mainers voted overwhelmingly in November to close the loophole and ban foreign governments, or companies with 5% or more foreign government ownership, from donating to future referendums.

The plaintiffs sued on constitutional grounds. The media outlets contended the law requires them to police advertisements and “substantially burdens core political speech and the freedom of the press.”

But the judge focused her decision on arguments brought by the utilities, both of which have foreign ownership.

Versant’s owner is ENMAX, which is owned by the city of Calgary, in Alberta, Canada. Central Maine Power, meanwhile, is a subsidiary of a privately owned Spanish utility, Iberdrola, but minority shareholders include two foreign governments, Norway’s central bank Norges Bank and the government-owned Qatar Investment Authority.

In her decision, Torresen wrote that the 5% foreign-ownership trigger in the law appeared to be arbitrary, though the state pointed out that the figure is borrowed from federal requirements for special disclosures in publicly traded companies.

She suggested the figure was unlikely to survive the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United that corporations have a First Amendment right to engage in political speech, which includes some campaign-related spending.

“I agree that a 5% foreign ownership threshold would prohibit a substantial amount of protected speech,” the judge wrote.

National News

Associated Press

Move over grizzlies and wolves: Yellowstone visitors hope to catch a glimpse of rare white buffalo

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — Standing at the edge of a bluff overlooking the Lamar River in Yellowstone National Park, A.J. Ammond stared through binoculars at hundreds of buffalo dotting the verdant valley below. Tan-colored calves frolicked near their mothers while hulking bulls wallowed in mud. As his wife and young children clustered behind […]

11 minutes ago

Associated Press

Judge says trial is required to decide government’s antitrust case over Google’s advertising tech

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday said the government’s antitrust case against Google over its advertising technology will go to trial in September, rejecting both sides’ request to rule in their favor as a matter of law. The Justice Department and Google had been expected to make their arguments seeking summary judgment […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Vermont governor vetoes data privacy bill, saying state would be most hostile to businesses

Vermont’s governor has vetoed a broad data privacy bill that would have been one of the strongest in the country to crack down on companies’ use of online personal data by letting consumers file civil lawsuits against companies that break certain privacy rules. Republican Gov. Phil Scott said in his veto message late Thursday that […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Couples ask judge to find Alabama law that provides legal immunity to IVF providers unconstitutional

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Couples whose lawsuits against fertility providers led an Alabama court to rule that frozen embryos could be considered children have asked a judge to toss out a new state law that provides legal immunity to in vitro fertilization providers. The couples asked the judge to declare that the law — which […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Lynn Conway, microchip pioneer who overcame transgender discrimination, dies at 86

Lynn Conway, a pioneer in the design of microchips that are at the heart of consumer electronics who overcame discrimination as a transgender person, has died at age 86. Her June 9 death was announced by the University of Michigan, where Conway was on the engineering faculty until she retired in 1998. “She overcame so […]

3 hours ago

Image: The Supreme Court building can be seen from a distance on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Washin...

Associated Press

Supreme Court strikes down Trump-era ban on bump stocks, gun accessory

The Supreme Court has struck down a ban on bump stocks, an accessory that allows semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns.

4 hours ago

Judge puts brakes on new law banning foreign government spending on referendums