WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee on Friday sued the Federal Election Commission in an effort to raise unlimited cash like super PACs do.
The central committee, chairman Reince Priebus, and Louisiana Republicans filed a joint lawsuit in US District Court for the District of Columbia asking for permission to set up an independent account that could raise and spend potentially enormous sums of money to help federal candidates. Under the current rules, the RNC may only accept $32,400 each year from donors, and local-level parties are capped at $10,000.
‘‘The patchwork of limits on political speech undermines the First Amendment and puts high transparency, full-disclosure groups like the RNC on an unequal footing with other political entities,’’ RNC chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. ‘‘We are asking that political parties be treated equally under the law.’’
Super PACs, which operate independently of the political parties or the candidates they support, can raise unlimited money from allies. The groups technically cannot coordinate their spending and strategy with their favored candidates, but seldom have they pushed a message that runs counter to the campaigns’ wishes.
RNC officials said they want to have the same abilities to have independent accounts to buy ads, send campaign mail, and make phone calls.
‘‘In an era when independent-expenditure accounts can solicit unlimited contributions and spend enormous amounts to influence political races, political parties are constitutionally entitled to compete equally with them with their own independent campaign activity,’’ said James Bopp Jr., the lawsuit’s lead attorney.
The RNC has helped to chip away at campaign finance rules in recent years, most recently joining a lawsuit that ended a two-year, $123,200 aggregate limit on donations. Now, donors can give the maximum amount to as many candidates as they want. The caps on how much a donor can give to each candidate, however, remain.
The RNC lawsuit does not challenge that $2,600 individual contribution limit, nor does it ask for permission to accept money from corporations or unions, which can give to super PACs.
Republican officials emphasized the move was to seek parity with super PACs, which have grown in influence since 2010 and can help a few deep-pocketed donors exercise incredible influence. For instance, billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has spent tens of millions of dollars to help GOP candidates and causes.
‘‘I believe it is my job as the leader of the Republican Party to do everything in my power to help our candidates and get out our message of economic growth and opportunity,’’ Priebus said.
If successful in its lawsuit, the RNC plans to establish independent spending accounts for House and Senate candidates this election year.