By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A federal appeals court struck down part of a Wisconsin law on Monday limiting individual annual contributions to independent groups that run political ads separate from campaigns.
Wisconsin law limits to $10,000 how much individuals can give to candidates for office, but challengers successfully argued that such a cap should not apply to donations to political action committees independent of campaigns.
The challenge to the law was brought by the political action committee of Wisconsin Right to Life, which had won a temporary injunction against enforcement the law during recall elections earlier this year.
Monday's decision by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made the injunction permanent. The three-member panel, in an opinion written by Judge Diane Sykes, found that applying the cap to donations made to groups engaged only in independent spending for political speech violated the First Amendment.
The court said there was a difference between money spent to advertise one's views independently of a candidate's campaign, and money contributed to a candidate to be spent on a campaign.
The panel cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year in the "Citizens United" case, which found that the government cannot ban political spending by corporations in elections.
"We're just elated by this decision. It's a very sweeping victory," said Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life. Lyons said the decision did not apply to PACs that give contributions to candidates or political parties, only to those that act independently of candidates or parties.
Reid Magney, spokesman for the state's Government Accountability Board, said the board was reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin had no comment, according to spokesman Graeme Zielinski.
(Editing by Jerry Norton and Cynthia Johnston)