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Supreme Court rejects GOP appeal to end soft-money ban

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court yesterday reaffirmed a ban on unlimited contributions to political parties, rejecting a Republican Party appeal to undo a major aspect of campaign finance law.

Five months after the court ruled in favor of unlimited corporate and labor spending in federal elections, the justices Tuesday turned down a request to consider ending the ban on the raising of soft money - unlimited donations from corporations, unions and others - by national party committees.

The soft-money ban was a cornerstone of the 2002 congressional overhaul of federal campaign finance law.

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said they would have heard the Republicans' appeal.

The GOP said the Supreme Court's rationale in January for removing restrictions on corporate and union spending in federal elections should lead to a similar removal of the restriction on such fundraising by national political parties.

In March, federal judges in Washington said recent campaign finance rulings have left the political parties at a disadvantage relative to outside interest groups now that they are unencumbered by contribution or independent spending limits. But those judges said they lacked authority to overturn the soft-money ban because the Supreme Court explicitly endorsed it in 2003.

The appeal by the Republican National Committee, RNC chairman Michael Steele, the California Republican Party and the San Diego GOP is being handled by attorney Theodore Olson, who successfully urged the court to overturn the ban on independent spending by corporations and unions.

Democrats have opposed the Republican effort, even though they, too, would be allowed to collect unlimited contributions.

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