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Supreme Court turns away challenge to party contribution limits

By The Associated Press


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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear a Republican Party challenge to a state law limiting political party contributions to candidates.

After nearly four years of battling the contribution limits, the state GOP conceded yesterday that the case was over.

"We're not surprised. We expected this outcome," said Scott Baker, a spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party. "We just wanted to be clear on exactly what the law was. We wanted to make sure we executed all our legal options, and we now have and now we know where we stand."

Last November, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis upheld Missouri's limits.

That decision came after the U.S. Supreme Court last August ordered the appeals court to reconsider an earlier decision that struck down the limits approved in 1994.

High court justices had directed the Missouri case be reconsidered in light of a Colorado case in which they upheld federal limits on money that political parties can spend on behalf of candidates.

Attorney General Jay Nixon, a Democrat who defended the state limits in the case, said Republicans had fought a case they had no chance of winning.

"This is a no-brainer. Let's just follow the law and move on," Nixon said. "They are wasting taxpayer money to circumvent the will of the people. We'll continue to fight them."

The case began when state campaign auditors found that the Missouri Republican Party overshot contribution limits in the waning days of the 1998 state elections.

The Missouri Ethics Commission sought fines from those who violated the contribution limits, but the GOP has challenged the fines in court.

"This is the third time we've won and they're still suing," Nixon said of the challenge to the fines.

The state law limits donations by parties to candidates for statewide office to $11,675 in cash and an equal amount in services for each election. The party contribution limit for state Senate candidates is $5,850 and for state House candidates is $2,925. Contributions to candidates for other offices are limited to 10 times the maximum that individuals can donate.

Lawyers for the Missouri Republican Party had argued there was little practical difference between a political party and its candidates, and that the parties ought to be free to speak through their candidates.

Nixon claims the limits are needed to prevent corruption or the appearance of a quid pro quo when candidates accept party cash.

Two years ago, Nixon successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that Missouri's campaign-contribution limits on individuals are constitutional.


Missouri Supreme Court upholds contribution limits
Even if campaign donations are speech, unsigned opinion says, state constitution does not 'give an absolute right to communicate ideas at all times.'  11.04.02


Supreme Court orders review of state spending caps
Justices tell lower court to reconsider Missouriís rules on political party contributions in light of decision upholding federal limits.  07.02.01


2001-2002 Supreme Court term coverage
Analysis and other coverage of the 2001-2002 U.S. Supreme Court term.  11.01.01