SACRAMENTO, CALIF., OCT. 3 -- The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused today to reinstate California's campaign fund-raising limits, a decision that left an increasingly eager pack of candidates for statewide office free to raise as much money as they can.

The court's decision touched off a headlong rush by candidates of both parties for millions of dollars in large contributions. These included candidates who had challenged opponents to abide by the spirit of Proposition 73 after a lower court last week ruled it unconstitutional.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dianne Feinstein, the first to break with the pack last week and begin accepting large contributions, pocketed a $50,000 donation Tuesday from comedian Chevy Chase. An aide to Feinstein said the court decision lifting the limits will be worth at least $2 million to her campaign.

Supporters of Proposition 73 immediately filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court in a bid to restore the prohibitions on receiving contributions of more than $1,000 from individuals and $5,000 from political committees.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton ruled that the limits were unconstitutional because they discriminated against challengers and violated their First Amendment right to free expression. He also overturned Proposition 73's ban on the transfer of campaign money between candidates.