Separate rulings set stage for 2010 election fundraising

March 27, 2010

Two court decisions Friday are likely to help set the ground rules for 2010 election fundraising. The Republican Party lost its bid to raise unlimited contributions, while a conservative group won approval to raise big donations for ads but must regularly disclose its givers. The two rulings are the first major campaign finance decisions since the Supreme Court said earlier this year that corporations, unions and groups of individuals can spend unlimited sums supporting or opposing candidates - as long as they do it independently of campaigns. The high court so far has upheld campaign finance disclosure rules and the McCain-Feingold law's ban on the raising and spending of "soft money" by national party committees and presidential and congressional candidates. In the Republican National Committee case, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court in Washington said it lacks the authority to overturn a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the ban on the raising of soft money - unlimited donations from corporations, unions and others - by national party committees. RNC Chairman Michael Steele said the RNC will appeal its case to the Supreme Court. In a separate case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the conservative group SpeechNow.org can raise unlimited donations from individuals for election ads it plans to run independently of candidates. But the group will have to periodically file reports with the FEC detailing its fundraising and spending.

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