Supreme Court orders review of state spending caps
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON The Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to review a Missouri dispute over state caps on political party contributions in light of its ruling last week that upheld federal spending limits.
The latest case considered whether political parties are subject to the same rationale that limits the campaign donations of individuals and political action committees.
In the June 25 decision in Federal Election Commission v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee, the court said the federal government was within its rights to limit amounts that political parties may spend in concert with candidates.
On June 29, the high court ordered the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to take another look at Nixon v. Missouri Republican Party but gave no further direction.
The campaign spending at issue in the Colorado case is slightly different from the Missouri case. The Colorado case involved money that political parties spend to help candidates, such as mass mailings and broadcast advertisements. In Missouri, the disputed money was direct contributions to candidates.
As a result, the 8th Circuit said Missouri could not limit the size of political party contributions. The ruling applied only to statewide candidates in Missouri.
The state claims the limits are needed to prevent corruption or the appearance of a quid pro quo when candidates accept party cash.
Lawyers for the Missouri Republican Party argued there is little practical difference between a political party and its candidates, and that the parties ought to be free to speak through their candidates.
The case began when state campaign auditors found that the Missouri Republican Party exceeded contribution limits in the waning days of the 1998 state elections.
For example, the party contributed $133,500 to the GOP candidate for state auditor even though the state limit was $10,750.
At the time, the party said that a pending court challenge to state limits on individual political contributions effectively canceled out the state's limits on party spending.
Missouri pegged one limit to the other, and a court had put the individual limits on hold.
The state's individual limits came before the Supreme Court as a separate case, and a divided court sided with Missouri in Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC. That 6-3 ruling last year reaffirmed states' sweeping power to deter corruption by imposing limits on campaign contributions and said Missouri didn't violate free-speech rights when it capped individual contributions at $1,075 for state races.
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After nearly four years of battling Missouri law, state GOP concedes that case is over.
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