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Reince Priebus is chairman of the Republican National Committee. The committee recently launched a joint fundraising committee with the party's House and Senate campaign arms. / Susan Walsh, AP

WASHINGTON ?? Political parties, election lawyers and some donors are racing to capitalize on the Supreme Court's recent decision striking down the overall limits on what wealthy contributors can give to candidates, parties and political action committees.

National Republican officials recently launched the Republican Victory Fund, a new campaign vehicle that will allow a single donor to contribute nearly $100,000 to be split among the Republican National Committee and the two GOP campaign committees working on House and Senate races.

The goal of the joint fundraising plan is to "maximize our donations to help candidates win in November," Kirsten Kukowski, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

The Supreme Court's decision maintained limits on how much an individual can give to one party or candidate but tossed out the aggregate caps that barred a single donor from giving more than $48,600 to all federal candidates and $74,600 to political parties and PACs in the current election cycle. The Republican Party filed its paperwork with federal regulators less than a week after the high court's ruling April 2 in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that declared the overall cap on contributions violated the free speech rights of political activists to spread their donations to as many candidates and party committees as they liked. The Republican National Committee was among the plaintiffs challenging the overall limits.

State laws have started to fall in the decision's wake.

Two states have abandoned their overall contribution limits to comply with the ruling: Massachusetts immediately dropped its $12,500 annual limit on what an individual can donate to all candidates for state, county and local offices. Friday, Maryland election officials announced they will no longer enforce the state's $10,000 limit on what individuals could give to all state candidates in a four-year election cycle.

Both states are home to governors' races this year.

In the end, laws in as many as 18 states and the District of Columbia may be vulnerable to challenge ?? either because they limit how much an individual can contribute to all candidates or parties or impose other restrictions that run counter to the high court's reasoning in McCutcheon, the Center for Competitive Politics argues in a new analysis. The group favors fewer campaign restrictions.

Writing for the majority in McCutcheon, Chief Justice John Roberts said free speech rights trump concerns about balancing who has a bigger voice in politics.

The government "may not regulate contributions simply to reduce the amount of money in politics or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others," he wrote.

Citing that decision, a group of candidates and political donors in Minnesota filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday to overturn a portion of the state's campaign-finance law that seeks to limit the number of contributions candidates may receive from certain types of donors, such as lobbyists or people who contribute in large amounts.

Under state law, only the first 12 donors to a Minnesota Statehouse candidate may contribute the maximum of $1,000 each in this election cycle. Once that threshold is met, later donors cannot give more than $500 each.

"This doles out First Amendment rights on a first-come, first-served basis and, therefore, is unconstitutional," said Anthony Sanders, an attorney with the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice, which brought the case.

In neighboring Wisconsin, a lawsuit predating the McCutcheon decision could prevail. In that case, retired Racine businessman Fred Young challenges the state's $10,000 annual limit on the amount a single donor can give to all state and local candidates.

"If you were to give $10,000 to your favorite candidate for governor, then you can't give money to your local school board candidate," said Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which represents Young.

"If the state limit falls, as many expect it will, it will have a devastating impact," said Mike McCabe, director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which favors contribution limits. "This will empower a tiny segment of the wealthiest in society and will weaken everyone else."

Wisconsin officials may simply opt to drop their objections to Young's lawsuit in the wake of the Supreme Court's action.

Reid Magney, a spokesman for Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board, said the state officials "haven't made any determination" on next steps but are studying their alternatives. The board is the defendant in the Young lawsuit.

Officials with the national Democratic Party committees did not respond immediately to USA TODAY's interview requests about their post-McCutcheon fundraising plans.

The party leaders who denounced the ruling have made it clear they will operate under the new rules before November's midterm congressional elections. "I don't believe in unilateral surrender," New York Rep. Steve Israel, who chairs the Democrats' House campaign committee, told Politico recently.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Supreme Court ruling sets off race for bigger donations

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