RNC lawsuit: Let party raise cash like super PACs

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By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican National Committee on Friday sued the Federal Election Commission in an effort to raise unlimited cash like super PACs do.

The central committee, chairman Reince Priebus and Louisiana Republicans filed a joint lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asking for permission to set up an independent account that could raise and spend potentially enormous sums of money to help federal candidates. Under the current rules, the RNC may only accept $32,400 each year from donors, and local-level parties are capped at $10,000.

"The patchwork of limits on political speech undermines the First Amendment and puts high transparency, full-disclosure groups like the RNC on an unequal footing with other political entities," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. "We are asking that political parties be treated equally under the law."

The RNC has helped to chip away at campaign finance rules in recent years, most recently joining a lawsuit that ended a two-year, $123,200 aggregate limit on donations. Now, donors can give the maximum amount to as many candidates as they want. The caps on how much a donor can give to each candidate, however, remain.

The RNC lawsuit does not challenge that $2,600 individual contribution limit, nor does it ask for permission to accept money from corporations or unions, which can give to super PACs.

Republican officials emphasized the move was to seek parity with super PACs, which have grown in influence since 2010 and can help a few deep-pocketed donors exercise incredible influence. For instance, billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has spent tens of millions of dollars to help GOP candidates and causes.

"I believe it is my job as the leader of the Republican Party to do everything in my power to help our candidates and get out our message of economic growth and opportunity," Priebus said.

The RNC plans to establish independent spending accounts for House and Senate candidates this election year, followed in 2016 with a spending account for the Republican presidential nominee, according to the lawsuit.

Unlike some outside groups, money given to the RNC would be subject to the same reporting requirements as currently exist. The committee still would file monthly reports detailing where it receives its money and where it spends it.

In addition to the RNC and Priebus, the Republican Party of Louisiana, the Jefferson and Orleans Parish Republican Executive Committees and Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere joined the lawsuit.

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