Justices uphold campaign-finance restriction


Campaign contributions from advocacy groups can be banned by the government,
the Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case viewed as a prelude to the court's
upcoming review of the new campaign-finance law.

In Monday's case, the justices upheld a 32-year-old federal-donation ban that
applies to groups pushing points of view such as gun rights and abortion.

By a vote of 7-2, the court said the right to free speech does not override
Congress' goal of limiting the corrosive effects of corporate money in politics.

Members of advocacy organizations said they should be allowed to pool their
money to support candidates who back their issues.

The government countered that the groups could be used to circumvent
individual campaign-donation limits with little disclosure about the source of
the money.

"Any attack on the federal prohibition of direct corporate political
contributions goes against the current of a century of congressional efforts,"
Justice David Souter wrote for the majority.

The case involved a North Carolina anti-abortion organization.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day
O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer agreed with Souter.

Justice Anthony Kennedy concurred.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

The donation ban is not directly related to the court's review of the new
McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, but the ruling has been highly anticipated
for hints at what direction the justices might take in that case.

The court will hear arguments in a four-hour special session in September, one
month before the court's regular term starts.

The McCain-Feingold law bans corporate, union and unlimited contributions --
known as soft money -- to national party committees and restricts political ads
during election season.