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Missouri Supreme Court upholds contribution limits

By The Associated Press


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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Following the lead of a federal appeals court, the Missouri Supreme Court has upheld a law limiting political-party contributions to candidates.

The unanimous decision late Nov. 1 came after the Missouri Libertarian Party challenged the limits, claiming they violate the state constitution's free-speech provisions.

The Missouri Republican Party had previously challenged the limits on claims that they violated the U.S. Constitution. But in June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal of a November 2001 decision upholding the limits issued by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

In its lawsuit, the Libertarian Party said it already had given the maximum of $2,925 to its state House candidate Charles "Chip" Taylor of Poplar Bluff and desired to give more. The party argued the state constitution contains a broader protection of free speech than the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The state constitution says "no law shall be passed impairing the freedom of speech, no matter by what means communicated: that every person shall be free to say, write or publish, or otherwise communicate whatever he will on any subject, being responsible for all abuses of that liberty."

Even if it is assumed that a campaign contribution is a form of speech, the state constitution "has never been held to give an absolute right to communicate ideas at all times and under all circumstances," the state's highest court said in the unsigned opinion.

The court said the right to free speech is still subject to the state's police powers to protect the public from corruption or the appearance of corruption. The limit on political-party contributions serves that purpose and does not violate the constitution, the court said.

Taylor said he was disappointed by the state Supreme Court decision.

"As a Libertarian, I feel like people should be free to support their candidates as they see fit," Taylor said.

The party's Sept. 18 contribution to Taylor comprises much of his campaign fund-raising. Through Oct. 24, Taylor reported raising $6,749 in his bid for the 154th House District against Democrat Bill Stanberry and Republican Gayle Kingery.

The lawsuit was filed the day after the Libertarian Party's contribution to Taylor. Circuit Judge Thomas Brown dismissed the case Oct. 21, and the Nov. 1 state Supreme Court decision upheld that dismissal.

Missouri 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. The limits rise periodically to keep pace with inflation.


Supreme Court turns away challenge to party contribution limits
After nearly four years of battling Missouri law, state GOP concedes that case is over.  06.04.02