WASHINGTON — In the first court hearing since the Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance regulations, a federal appeals court seemed poised Wednesday to strike down additional limits on money in politics.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia gave every indication it would make it easier for independent advocacy groups to raise money for use in campaigns for president and Congress.
Several judges, all members of the court's conservative bloc, said the outcome was compelled by the reasoning in the high court's decision last week freeing corporations to spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose candidates in federal elections.
The first words from Chief Judge David Sentelle set the tone for the hourlong hearing.
"What can you add to what Justice Kennedy said?" Sentelle said, referring to Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion in the case of Citizens United vs. FEC. Sentelle was appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan.
The entire appeals court heard the appeal of SpeechNow.org, a creation of the leader of the anti-tax group Club for Growth. Emily's List, a nonprofit that backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, also has challenged the rules and won a ruling from a three-judge panel of the appeals court.
The Federal Election Commission says that under rules issued in 2005, nonprofits should pay for political activities involving federal candidates using limited "hard money" contributions. Individuals may give no more than $5,000 annually in such contributions to a nonprofit that indicates it plans to use the money to support or oppose a federal candidate.
The judges gave no indication when they would issue a decision.