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Court Strikes Ark. Campaign Limits

June 5, 1998

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Days before a legislative runoff election, a federal appeals panel canceled a state law that put low limits on campaign finances, saying the terms violated contributors’ rights.

The law limited donations to $100 for most candidates. The ruling Thursday by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means limits will return to $1,000 for all races _ the rule before voters approved lower limits in November 1996.

The decision comes just before Tuesday’s runoff election involving several legislative seats.

``The candidate contribution limits set forth in Act 1 are too low to allow meaningful participation in protected speech and association,″ Judge Morris Arnold wrote for the three-person panel of the appeals court.

The panel said lawyers defending the law failed to show any evidence of political corruption or even the perception of corruption because of higher campaign contribution limits.

Under the ruling, candidates for the state Legislature and local races can accept up to $1,000 from each donor, instead of the $100 limit approved by a 2-to-1 margin two years ago.

The appeals panel also struck a 1990 law capping contributions to political action committees at $200 a year. Proponents of the lower limits said they planned to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Similar spending caps have been passed in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Missouri, and Washington, D.C. The laws have all been challenged, and in Washington, Missouri and California have been thrown out.

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