Supreme Court Stays Out of Political Speech Case

 The Supreme Court isn't giving any help to states that want to collect more information about campaign spending.

Justices turned down a request Tuesday by Mississippi and 20 other states that want to clarify what campaign speech is so states can more closely regulate it.

The Supreme Court is expected to get drawn into a much bigger campaign finance case next year involving challenges to the new federal law.

Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore said the court should recognize state efforts to monitor election dollars, too.

That state has spent the past two years battling with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's best-known business lobby. The group spent millions of dollars on television ads supportive of judge candidates the chamber considered pro-business in 2000 in several states, including Mississippi.

An appeals court said that the U.S. Chamber did not have to reveal the cost of the ads, as part of the state's campaign finance reporting law, because the ads did not include explicit words like "elect'' or "vote for.''

Moore told justices that the decision "effectively opens and endorses a loophole that swallows the statute and submerges those legitimate state interests served by disclosure.''

Jan Witold Baran, the Washington attorney for the Chamber, said the court will have a chance to address First Amendment free speech questions in the other, larger campaign finance case. Considering the Mississippi challenge as well "would only add burden to what already will be a large and complex proceeding,'' Baran wrote in a filing.

Another 25 states have laws like Mississippi's: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Vermont. Many of those states urged the court to review the case.

Mississippi had asked the court to revisit its landmark 1976 ruling that struck down limits on campaign spending on grounds that the restrictions infringed on the constitutional right to free speech.

Moore said the court could not have envisioned then the widespread spending by independent groups.

The Chamber's ads were virtually identical to the candidates ads. Under state law, it would have had to reported how much the ads cost and where some of the money came from to fund them.

The case is Moore v. Chamber of Commerce of The United States of America, 02-305.