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Supremes Pave Way For Campaign Law Challenge

The Supreme Court Monday ruled that a lower court must consider the merits of a challenge to the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) prohibition on some types of broadcast and multichannel video campaign advertising.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court vacated a lower court decision and asked that court to consider a challenge to the law by Wisconsin Right to Life.

The District court had dismissed that group's complaint and their request for an injunction prohibiting the Federal Election Commission from barring their 2004 election ads as "prohibited electioneering communication."

The law prohibits cororations from using general funds to pay for such comuniations, which it defines as braodcast, cable or satellite-transmitted ads that refers to a federal candidate or office within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election.

The Wisconsin group had argued that it would be unconstitutional to apply the BCRA to its ads because they were "grassroots lobbying advertisements." Although the FEC has the authority to exempt certain communications from BCRA restrictions, it has not dones so for the type of ads at issue.

The lower court had concluded from a Supreme Court footnote in an earlier decision that individual challenges to the prohibition on electioneering communications were foreclosed.

The High Court said that was a misreading of its note and asked the lower court to consider the merits of the challenge as it applied to the group's ads.

The Center for Responsive Politics reads the decision to remand to the lower court as a way for theHigh Court to avoid resolving the campaign finance speech issue until Justice O'Connor's replacement is named.