The Supremes Tackle Political "Issue" Ads


Jumping into a heated free-speech dispute a year before the presidential primaries, the Supreme Court on Friday accepted a pair of appeals over a sweeping campaign-finance reform law that limits "issue ads."

Oral arguments in the cases will be held in late April, with a ruling expected by late June -- six months before the 2008 election officially kicks off with primaries and caucuses in such states as Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

The question for the high court is whether issue ads aired mainly on television -- and funded by businesses, labor unions, and other groups -- can be banned 60 days before a general election, and 30 days before a primary.

That restriction was a key part of the McCain-Feingold congressional bill setting strict limits on political spending and the message behind it.

The issue ads are widely used to promote particular causes such as environmental protection or tax reform, and they specifically cannot endorse or even mention any particular candidate or political party.