Campaign Finance Law Defenders Flood Supreme Court With Paperwork

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Supporters of a new campaign money law came to its defense in hundreds of pages of filings Tuesday at the Supreme Court (search). The court is considering whether fund-raising and advertising restrictions are constitutional.

The Bush administration, in a 135-page brief, argued that the 2002 law is needed to keep elections clean and does not hurt the free-speech rights of donors or political groups. Joining the administration with their own filings were politicians, religious institutions, advocacy groups and others.

The Supreme Court is cutting short its summer break to deal with the case, which should affect fund raising in the 2004 presidential race and future federal elections.

Traditionally the court begins each term the first Monday in October. Justices will meet Sept. 8 for an unusual four-hour session.

The paperwork came in Tuesday just under the court's deadline for filings by supporters of the law, which bans the raising of "soft money," corporate and union contributions of any size and unlimited donations from any source. The law also restricts advertising by a range of interest groups.

In their joint brief, advocacy groups Common Cause (search) and AARP (search) said the soft money system had become a half-billion-dollar-a-year loophole in federal campaign finance laws. The act is "necessary to address the dangers of corruption and the appearance of corruption caused by the rise of soft money in American campaigns," Washington lawyer Donald Simon told the court for the groups.

Solicitor General Theodore Olson (search), the Bush administration's attorney, cited ads by the National Rifle Association (search) intended to help President Bush win the 2000 election as an example of the need for a crackdown on group advertising.

Many of the briefs brought up Clinton administration fund-raising complaints, including coffees and overnight sleepovers at the White House for Democratic campaign donors.

Opponents of the law, including politicians and political advocacy groups, argued in filings by their deadline last month that it is an unconstitutional infringement on free-speech and threatens the ability of corporations and labor unions to associate with the government.

A lower federal court upheld some portion of the law and struck down others.

The case is McConnell v. FEC, 02-1674.