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Supreme Court upholds ‘soft money’ contribution limits

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a Republican National Committee bid to allow big-money contributions to political parties.

The 6-3 summary ruling shows the high court is not prepared to throw out all the limits on money in politics. In January, the court struck down prohibitions on preelection broadcast ads that were paid for with corporate or union money.

“This is an extremely important victory that stops the recent serious erosion by the Supreme Court [and] supports anti-corruption laws to protect the integrity of our elections and our government,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21.

In the 1990s, leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties realized they could get around the federal limits on contributions to candidates by raising huge amounts of money through their parties. The parties, in turn, spent this so-called soft money on ads that boosted the candidates.

The McCain-Feingold Act closed this loophole in 2002 by setting limits on contributions to parties. Currently, the parties may not ask for or receive more than $30,400 per year from an individual.

The RNC sued, contending the limits violated the 1st Amendment. The California Republican Party and the Republican Party of San Diego joined the suit. Together, they said they wanted to raise more money to register new voters and to support ballot measures in California.

But a three-judge panel upheld the limits in March. And on Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a one-line ruling affirming that decision. Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas voted to hear the appeal.

david.savage@latimes.com


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