The Supreme Court has been asked formally to review a challenge to restrictions on “soft money” contributions to political parties—the last remaining major element of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law passed in 2002. The filing of a “jurisdictional statement” appealing to the high court had been expected since a lower court ruling last fall, which rejected the soft money challenge launched by the Republican Party of Louisiana. The party committee sued the Federal Election Commission, the agency that enforces restrictions on campaign money to national, state and local parties. The McCain-Feingold law—formally known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, or BCRA—requires party committees to use FEC-regulated “hard money” for activities affecting federal elections. Hard money includes only limited contributions and no corporate or union money for these activities.
The new appeal—announced Jan. 6 but not yet docketed by the Supreme Court—gives the court an opportunity to scrap or uphold the restrictions on political party funding that have been in place for nearly 15 years. The case is being considered under streamlined procedures for constitutional challenges to campaign finance laws, meaning that the Supreme Court must issue some type of ruling on the merits, though there’s no guarantee of an oral argument or written opinion.
James Bopp, Jr., the lead counsel for the Louisiana Republican Party and two local GOP party committees challenging the soft money restrictions, said in a statement that the case is about equalizing the fundraising power of parties and super political action committees—non-party campaign spending groups that have risen to prominence since passage of the McCain-Feingold law and recent court decisions rolling back limits on independent political spending.