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GOP Asks High Court To Undo 'Soft Money' Ban

The Republican Party asked the Supreme Court on Friday to allow political parties to raise unlimited contributions, the latest outgrowth of the court's decision to unleash corporate and labor spending in federal elections.

The filing sought to undo the ban on the raising of soft money - unlimited donations from corporations, unions and others - by national party committees.

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.

The soft money ban was a cornerstone of the 2002 overhaul of federal campaign finance law. Just last month, a federal court in Washington said it lacked authority to overturn the soft money ban.

Yet even that court 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.

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. When he served as the Bush administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, Olson once defended the provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law he challenged Friday. That law is named after two leading sponsors of the law, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

The GOP asked the court to hear the case on a speeded-up basis, ideally with a decision in time to affect this year's elections.

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

The RNC said it wants to raise and spend soft money to help elect GOP candidates to state offices, finance congressional redistricting efforts following the 2010 census, and fund lobbying efforts on federal legislation.

Before the law was enacted, the two parties were raising hundreds of millions in soft money, with rich individuals, businesses and unions giving a million or more.

When the Supreme Court upheld the "soft money" ban in 2003, it said that large contributions to the parties were used to buy access to elected officials.

The GOP said the high court's Citizens United decision in January changed everything. "In Citizens United, the court made clear that the only constitutionally adequate basis for prohibiting political speech is the prevention of actual or apparent quid pro quo corruption - arrangements that exchange dollars for political favors," the Republicans said in court papers.

Access is not corruption, they said.