Court strikes down Wisconsin campaign contribution law

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 12, 2011 4:13 PM
Court strikes down Wisconsin campaign contribution law

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Monday struck down a Wisconsin law that limited contributions to groups that independently spend on political speech.

The law imposed a $10,000 cap on the amount individuals may contribute to political candidates, parties and political committees in any calendar year.

The challenge to the law was brought by the political action committee of Wisconsin Right to Life. The committee had won a temporary injunction against enforcing the law during recall elections earlier this year.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision makes the injunction permanent. The three-member panel, in an opinion written by Judge Diane Sykes, found that applying the cap to donations made to organizations engaged only in independent spending for political speech violates the First Amendment.

The court said there is a difference between money spent to advertise one's views independently of a candidate's campaign, and money contributed to the candidate to be spent on the campaign.

"We're just elated by this decision. It's a very sweeping victory," said Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life. Lyons said the decision does not apply to PACs that give contributions to candidates or political parties, only to those that act independently of candidates or political parties.

A representative for the Wisconsin attorney general's office was not immediately available for comment.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin had no comment, according to spokesman Graeme Zielinski.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)