Anonymous plaintiffs challenge state campaign law


  

A federal judge in Jackson did not rule Friday on a request to keep hidden the origin of a political mailer that depicted the Madison mayor manipulating Madison County supervisor candidates with puppet strings.

Judge Carlton Reeves took the matter under advisement after a 90-minute hearing. He indicated it could be a couple weeks before he rules after attorneys further brief the matter.

The hearing arose out of a lawsuit, filed Thursday, that claims the state law that requires senders’ identifying information be included on such political correspondence violates their right to free speech. The plaintiffs, who admit in the complaint they were behind the mailer, were identified as Anonymous Doe, Anonymous Roe and Anonymous Company. Named as defendants were Attorney General Jim Hood, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Gov. Phil Bryant. In the complaint, plaintiffs ask Reeves to issue a temporary restraining order that would prevent Hood’s office from prosecuting them and keep their identities secret.

Hosemann and Hood initiated a joint investigation into the Madison County mailer and several others when they appeared in the days before the Aug. 4 primary. In a late July press conference, Hosemann called the mailers “gutless.” A Madison County Justice Court judge signed search warrants related to the investigation that have already been executed, said Graham Carner, the Jackson attorney representing the plaintiffs. The violation is a misdemeanor.

“The whole point of this is to preserve their anonymity,” Carner said. “You can’t un-ring the bell.”

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