Candidates who raised more money than allowed under the old campaign contribution limits that have been reinstated by the State Supreme Court will have to give that money back, unless those candidates can convince the Missouri Ethics Commission that doing so would be a hardship.

The Supreme Court ruled last month that the law passed in 2006 that lifted campaign contribution limits was unconstitutional, because of a technicality in the appeal of a lower court ruling. The Supreme Court then asked that parties submit briefs on whether its ruling should apply to candidates who raised in excess of the limit before the court issued its ruling.

The court has made its ruling retroactive with a qualification. If candidates can convince the Ethics Commission retroactive application would create a hardship and the commission determines that allowing a candidate to keep the money would not create an uneven playing field in that race, the candidate could be allowed to keep the funds.

Millions of dollars are at stake as well as a huge fund-raising lead in the 2008 governor’s race. Governor Blunt raised $1.7 million in the second quarter to bankroll his re-election campaign. Democrat Jay Nixon, the state Attorney General, raised more than a million dollars during that period as well, but trails Blunt badly in the money race. The two campaigns might have to give that money back unless they can convince the Missouri Ethics Commission that they should be allowed to keep it.

The Supreme Court made its ruling on a 4-to-2 vote.  A dissenting opinion written by Judge Stephen Limbaugh, Jr. states that the court has given the Ethics Commission a monumental task that likely is well beyond the resources of the commission. Limbaugh writes that he doesn’t see a practical way to accommodate that procedure during the current election cycle.