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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Supreme Court Upholds Key Features of New Campaign Finance Law

Aired December 10, 2003 - 10:31   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: This hour, the Supreme Court narrowly upheld the key features of a new campaign finance law. Among other things, the ruling states the government may ban unlimited donations to political parties.
Our Bruce Morton joins us now from Washington with more on this key role ruling, especially with the presidential election right around the corner.

Bruce, good morning.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn.

The presidential election is the main reason yet Supreme Court went way out of its way of abandoning its usual schedule and heard arguments on this early last fall so that the decision could come down in time for the players in the 2004 election to know what they were doing. It's a 300-odd page opinion. Reading through that is kind of like going one-on-one with assume owe wrestler, but clearly already the first reaction.

The two main points in this law were upheld. One is the ban on soft money, the money that didn't count under campaign contribution, the money that corporations and labor unions could contribute in spite of laws that said they couldn't. This was supposed to go to party- building activities, and it washed over the electoral process in millions and millions of dollars.

The McCain-Feingold bill, the Republican and Democrat senators who pushed this through, banned that money and that ban stands. The other main thing in the bill was restrictions on so-called issue advertising that interest groups, People for the American Way, the National Rifle Association, whatever could run close to elections that which amounted to campaign commercials, vote for Jones, don't vote for Smith. Those are still allowed. But the groups that run them now have to use hard money, have to organize a political action committee, just the same as the political parties and the candidates themselves do. So it will be harder for them to raise the hard money that those kinds of ads now require.

The decision, like so many recent decisions by this court was five to four, Sandra Day O'Connor once again the key vote as it seems, John Paul Stephens was with her, David Suder was with her, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Breyer; the four opposed, Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justices Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

So the first reading, the lawyers will be poring over this for days. The two big things in the campaign finance laws stand -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Very interesting, coming out of a high court.

Bruce, thanks for explaining that for us, and interpreting the ruling that came out within the last hour.

Thanks, Bruce Morton in Washington.

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