Naked City

Katz Takes On $100 Limit

Mayoral candidate Marc Katz on Tuesday announced a federal lawsuit to block enforcement of, and ultimately throw out, Austin's $100 limit on contributions to city election campaigns. The $100 limit, passed by Austin voters in 1997 and upheld in a repeal effort last year, is the object of much ire for all three leading candidates for mayor -- as Katz pointed out in a news conference on the steps of the federal courthouse. But "while others" -- that is, Will Wynn and Max Nofziger -- "merely talk about the problem, I have chosen to act and to challenge the status quo. You can expect the same from me as mayor."

Katz himself has money and a high profile as owner of his eponymous Sixth Street deli, which is now liberally bedecked with campaign swag, so the $100 limit is not such a big issue for him. But "a system that denies any candidate the ability to raise the funds necessary to communicate their ideas ... cheats our citizens," he says. Katz has hired attorney Mike McKetta, who led the successful effort to throw out the 1997 measure's restrictions on bond and issue campaigns, to finish the job this time.

Although Katz says his suit is an attempt to secure his First Amendment rights, he acknowledges the "importance" of the fact that citizens have voted for the $100 limit not once but twice. So does Will Wynn, who led the effort to put repealing the limit on the 2002 ballot. "I do believe that Austin's contribution rules restrict our democratic process, but they are themselves a result of our democratic process," he noted in a statement after Katz's announcement. "When the voters speak, I listen to what they say. As long as these are the rules, I'll play by them."

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