Court Throws Out Parts of Campaign Finance La

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Posted by Jeff from ( on Friday, May 02, 2003 at 7:44PM :

Court Throws Out Parts of Campaign Finance Law
1 hour, 54 minutes ago
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By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal court threw out as unconstitutional on Friday some parts of a landmark U.S. campaign finance law designed to restrict corruption and the influence of money in politics.

The three-judge panel's complex and lengthy ruling stemmed from challenges to the measure approved by Congress and signed by President Bush (news - web sites) in 2002 after seven years of debate. The case next goes to the U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) for a final decision on the law's constitutionality.

The ruling was about 1,700 pages, believed to be one of the longest, if not the longest, in federal court history.

The measure, sponsored in the Senate by Arizona Republican John McCain and Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, was the biggest overhaul of the nation's campaign finance laws in nearly 30 years largely by banning unlimited contributions known as "soft money" to national political parties.

By a 2-1 vote, the panel struck down the soft-money provision, with one exception, for national political parties and declared unconstitutional the section of the law that limits soft-money contributions to state and local parties, with some qualifications.

The law restricts broadcast ads by outside groups shortly before elections. By a 2-1 vote, the court struck down this provision concerning the law's primary definition of so-called issue ads.


Advocates said the measure would get rid of the most flagrant public corruption created by the chase for money and ease public cynicism about the political process.

Opponents said the law would choke the life out of political parties and shift money and power to uncontrolled special-interest groups.

A diverse coalition challenged the law, including the Republican Party, National Rifle Association, American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites) and AFL-CIO labor federation. Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell (news, bio, voting record) of Kentucky also challenged it.

The U.S. Justice Department (news - web sites) had defended the law.

The panel's ruling will go immediately to the Supreme Court. The justices are expected to decide quickly so politicians will know whether the law will be in effect while raising money for the 2004 presidential and congressional elections.

The decision was issued by a three-judge panel consisting of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson and U.S. District Court Judges Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and Richard Leon.

Henderson, who was appointed by Bush's father, former President George Bush, a Republican like his son, and Leon, appointed by the current president, joined in striking down some of the key parts. Kollar-Kotelly, appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton (news - web sites), dissented.

The law provides for the special court panel to hear challenges and then for immediate Supreme Court review.

-- Jeff
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