Team Aims to Reverse Campaign Bill; Starr Leads Legal Effort, Cites Restrictions on Free Speech

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A high-powered legal team including former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr yesterday vowed to fight new campaign-finance regulations in federal court as unconstitutional restrictions on free speech.

"No election law reform, none, is worth violating the First Amendment," said Floyd Abrams, lead co-counsel with Mr. Starr on the team assembled by Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

Mr. Starr called the ban on large donations to political parties, which received final approval in Congress on Wednesday, "a concerted effort to make speech less robust."

"These are perilous waters into which the republic has now sailed," Mr. Starr said. "The questions are grave, the questions are serious. It is now time for the courts to speak authoritatively to what the Congress has chosen to do."

President Bush has said he will sign the measure, which is to take effect after the Nov. 6 elections. Opponents said they will file their lawsuit soon after Mr. Bush signs the bill into law, with the case to be heard by a special three-judge panel in the District before an inevitable appeal to the Supreme Court.

The court fight is opponents' last chance to kill the regulations after losing a seven-year battle in Congress. Mr. McConnell hailed his legal team as a blend of liberals and conservatives with expertise in election and constitutional law as well as years of experience before the Supreme Court.

"I have brought together the strongest team of skilled, successful and experienced constitutional lawyers in America," Mr. McConnell said. "This is not about Republicans battling Democrats or the left versus the right. This is a mission to preserve the fundamental constitutional freedom of all Americans to fully participate in our democracy."

Other members of the legal team are Kathleen Sullivan, dean of the Stanford University Law School; Bobby Burchfield, co-chairman of the litigation group at Covington & Burling; Jan Baran, an election law specialist at the Washington law firm of Wiley Rein & Fielding; and James Bopp of Terre Haute, Ind. …