WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court overturned hard-fought campaign finance reform regulations in a ruling on Friday that will make it easier for independent political groups to raise and spend money to influence elections.
The three-judge panel struck down regulations that were intended to blunt the power of such organizations, including the controversial Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and MoveOn.org, which drew heavy criticism for spending tens of millions of dollars on aggressive advertisements during the 2004 presidential campaign.
The ruling could boost Republicans and their allies as they try to win back Congress and the White House. Outside conservative groups could be particularly important in countering the fundraising juggernaut of President Barack Obama, who shattered records by raising more than $750 million during his 2008 campaign.
Experts suggested that the court’s decision could provide a boon to those groups tapping into the fervor of anti-Obama activity and “Tea Party” events this year. It will certainly allow groups across the political spectrum to raise and spend money without pause, potentially leading to a more acerbic campaign environment.
The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit came in a lawsuit brought by Emily’s List, a nonprofit political organization that backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights.
The group challenged several Federal Election Commission regulations, arguing that the rules violated its First Amendment rights by limiting its ability to spend and raise money to influence elections.