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Appeals Court Ruling Loosens Campaign Spending Restrictions for Nonprofits

A Washington, D.C., appeals court on Friday agreed that EMILY’s List and other nonprofit organizations may use unlimited contributions from individuals to pay for television advertisements and independent expenditures.

“Nonprofits — like individual citizens — are entitled to spend and raise unlimited money for those activities,— reads the three-judge panel’s majority opinion in the case decided Friday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

In the lawsuit, EMILY’s List, a pro-abortion-rights group that supports Democratic women running for office, argued that Federal Election Commission regulations limiting political spending by outside groups was unconstitutional and an infringement on free speech.

A spokesman for the FEC was not immediately available for comment on whether the agency will appeal the decision.

The Campaign Legal Center criticized the ruling as “nothing more than judicial activism.— In a statement, the group said the decision “has the potential to facilitate a return to the massive soft-money spending by 527 groups in prior elections.—

Former FEC Chairman Michael Toner, a Republican, said the decision “has the potential to have a major impact on the role that outside groups play in the 2010 midterm elections.—

“If this ruling stands, it affects not only the spending of soft-money funds by outside groups but also the fundraising practices they can employ,— said Toner, who’s now in private practice at Bryan Cave.

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