A Shot in the Arm for Campaign-Cash Reform?

The Supreme Court upholds a state law capping political donations. Reformers see the move as a decent first step.

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At a time when campaign finance reform is a hot-button issue, with millions of Americans showing a desire for far-reaching modifications of the system, the Supreme Court appears to have approved at least some efforts at change. In a ruling Monday, the high court allowed the state of Missouri to maintain its six-year-old $1,000 cap on contributions to candidates in state races. Last year, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found the limit unconstitutionally limited free speech because it hampered the ability of candidates to raise funds to promote their candidacies. It based its argument, in part, on the notion that the $1,000 cap derived from a limit imposed by Congress for federal races in the '70s, and that in inflation-adjusted dollars, the Missouri limit was too low.

While finance reformers hailed it as a victory, politicos who've staked their campaigns on reforming the U.S.'s political contribution system, including White House hopefuls Bill Bradley and John McCain, still have a lot left to fight for. You can still give as early and often as you like to party war chests, which means that the ruling does nothing to overturn the 1976 Buckley decision that paved the way for the soft money contributions that are the scourge of today's finance reformers. Still, allowing states to impose spending caps will have far-reaching consequences; currently about two thirds of all states have such limits for state races. So that particular button should stay hot for some time to come.