Cleta Mitchell, an election lawyer for Republicans, said the court's ruling means that various party committees and candidates no longer will have to vie for money from the same contributors. The law permits a donor to contribute $5,200 for the primary and general election combined to any candidate, and if they gave the maximum, they could donate only to nine office-seekers before reaching the $48,600 limit to all federal office-seekers.
Similarly, while Republicans and Democrats in Washington each maintain a national party committee, a Senate campaign committee and a House campaign committee, a donor could give the maximum allowable amount to only two of the three without violating the overall limitation the court discarded.
Now, Mitchell said, "the donors get to choose obviously, but the committees don't have to feel like they're pinching another party's donors."
Ryan Call, a campaign finance attorney who is chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, said the court's ruling will be a boon to state parties, which he said have been neglected previously because donors hit the overall spending limit before they could distribute funds lower on the political food chain.
"We have lots of optimism that this new decision would enable people who want to support us to do so," Call said.
Under the court's ruling, a donor could donate the maximum $10,000 a year to each of their party's 50 state committees, or a total of $1 million during a two-year election cycle — and still donate to candidates as well as national party committees and political action committees.
The ruling does not affect a parallel system in which individuals donate unlimited amounts, sometimes undisclosed, to certain outside groups. Biersack said the same small group of 646 donors gave a total of about $93.4 million in the last campaign.
Their largesse will still be avidly sought, as Republican presidential hopefuls recently demonstrated by traveling to Las Vegas to meet with casino magnate and conservative donor Sheldon Adelson.
Associated Press writers Mark Sherman, Philip Elliott and Ken Thomas in Washington, Nicholas Riccardi in Denver and Michael J. Mishak in Miami contributed to this report.