Court to Review Contribution Limits
By Joan Biskupic
Stepping into the controversy over campaign fund-raising, the Supreme Court yesterday agreed to review whether Missouri's limit on political campaign contributions violates free-speech guarantees.
The Missouri lawmakers hope to overturn a lower court ruling that struck down its restrictions on contributions to state candidates, saying "there is a real fear, which may be stronger today than at any time in recent memory, that money is harmfully distorting the nation's political process."
The 1994 Missouri law prohibited candidates for public office from accepting contributions over $1,075 for most statewide offices, $525 for state Senate candidates and $275 for state representative candidates.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the "heavy-handed restriction of protected speech" was not justified by the state's interest in preventing real or perceived corruption. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier had upheld a $1,000 contribution limit for Kentucky state elections.
Federal law limits contributions that individuals can make to people running for federal office to $1,000, a provision upheld in the Supreme Court's Buckley v. Valeo ruling. That decision also said government could not restrict how much money a candidate can spend and has remained controversial. Some advocates for campaign financing reform hope the case of Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government might provide an opportunity for the high court to revisit that issue.
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