Government lawyers ask Supreme Court to keep ban on unlimited 'soft money' contributions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Monday asked the Supreme Court to let stand a ban keeping political parties from raising unlimited campaign contributions, the latest skirmish following the high court's decision to unleash corporate and labor spending in federal elections.

Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal argued in court filings that the justices should uphold a lower court's determination that the ban on the raising of soft money — unlimited donations from corporations, unions and others — by national party committees should stay.

The Republican Party wants it undone in time for this fall's elections. The GOP says 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.

But the court, in the Citizens United decision, "emphasized that the dispute before it involved independent electoral advocacy rather than contributions," Katyal said, and that decision doesn't throw into doubt the soft money ban that was a cornerstone of the 2002 overhaul of federal campaign finance law.

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 Citizens United decision "does not mean either that soft-money contributions to political parties lack corruptive potential, or that contribution limits are an impermissible means of preventing actual or apparent corruption," Katyal said.