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The U.S. Supreme Court will have a chance to revisit the tangled world of campaign finance law long before it weighs in on the freshly minted McCain-Feingold reforms. The high court is scheduled to consider the latest in a series of campaign finance cases coming out of the states, Missouri Republican Party, et al. v. Robert Connor, No. 01-1467, at its private conference Thursday. The case is one of several being considered for review next term. The litigation stems from a 1996 Missouri law that limited campaign contributions by individuals, political action committees (PACs) and political parties. Lawmakers asserted the restrictions would help prevent corruption of elected officials and their campaigns. In July 1998, in Shrink Missouri Government PAC v. Adams, Washington University School of Law constitutional law professor D. Bruce La Pierre persuaded the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to enjoin the individual and PAC limits on First Amendment grounds. At that time, the circuit did not address the limit on contributions that political parties could make to candidates. Following the ruling, the state Republican Party made contributions in excess of the limits to four candidates, believing that “the enforcement of party limits served no purpose while enforcement of the individual limits was enjoined,” writes La Pierre in his petition to the court. Toward the end of the 1998 campaign season, Missouri ethics officials found the four candidates in violation of state election laws for accepting excess party contributions. The state brought ethics charges against the candidates and the Republican Party, assessing their combined liability at more than $400,000. Then the dispute took a series of complex turns in the courts. In January 2000, the high court reversed the 8th Circuit in Shrink and upheld Missouri’s individual and PAC contribution limits. Writing for a six-member majority, Justice David Souter said, “There is no showing that the limitations prevented candidates from amassing the resources necessary for effective advocacy.” In the lower courts, the Republican Party’s contribution battle persisted. By June, a district court — which had initially blocked enforcement of the political party limits — ultimately upheld them in the face of a First Amendment challenge by the party and three of the candidates. Three months later, an 8th Circuit panel unanimously reversed that ruling. Wrote Judge Morris Arnold: “The record is wholly devoid of any evidence that limiting parties’ campaign contributions will either reduce corruption or measurably decrease the number of occasions on which limitations on individuals’ campaign contributions are circumvented.” But the Missouri GOP got bad news nearly a year later, when the Supreme Court held that federal limits on political party campaign expenditures are valid. In light of that June 2001 decision in Federal Election Commission v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee, the Supreme Court ordered the 8th Circuit to reconsider the validity of the Missouri law. On remand, the appellate court upheld the contribution limits, prompting the current petition. In an interview, La Pierre criticized the most recent appellate ruling and said that, even in the wake of FEC v. Colorado, lower courts must examine the real-life effects of campaign restrictions. “The mere validation of one federal limit does not mean another limit is valid,” he says. La Pierre points out that the dollar figures at stake in federal and state campaign laws are wildly disparate. For example, parties may contribute just $23,350 to state-level races in Missouri, while candidates running for federal office could receive more than $600,000. In his opposition brief, James Layton, Missouri solicitor, says a lack of circuit conflict makes the Republican Party’s claims unworthy of review. Moreover, he blames the party and the candidates for willfully breaking the law. “They made and accepted contributions over unambiguous statutory limits, at a time when those limits had not been challenged in any court,” Layton writes. “Their choice to proceed was a studied one, made in order to advance their own interests.” OTHER CASES UP FOR REVIEWHansen v. United States, No. 01-1104. Knowledge of environmental crimes under responsible corporate officer doctrine. � Balderas v. Texas, No. 01-1196. Congressional redistricting to create majority Latino voting districts. � Borden Ranch Partnership v. Army Corps of Engineers, No. 01-1243. Penalties for plowing wetlands. � Wisconsin v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 01-1247. Authority of Indian tribes to regulate navigable waters on reservations. � McMasters v. United States, No. 01-1283. Application of law to case transferred to a different federal jurisdiction. � Foster v. Garcy, No. 01-1307. Public sector employer’s collection of agency fee for unions. � Davis v. Duke Energy Trading and Marketing, No. 01-1312. State regulation of public utilities. � United States v. Navajo Nation, No. 01-1375. Government’s breach of fiduciary duty related to Indian mineral leases. � Clackamas Gastroenterology Associate v. Wells, No. 01-1435. Determining whether shareholders are employees for purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This column seeks to identify cases on the Supreme Court’s conference agenda that are leading candidates for Supreme Court review. Thomas Goldstein of Washington, D.C.’s Goldstein & Howe selects these cases from the many petitions that are filed based on several factors, including whether lower courts have split on the issues presented. Goldstein does not otherwise participate in the preparation of this column.

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