Campaign finance laws cannot stop negative ads, they can only limit how much is spent directly supporting a candidate.
I don't know why that would be. If you had the stomach for restricting how many good things could be said about a candidate, I think you could write a laws that restrict how many bad things you could say about all the other candidates just as well.
The campaign spending laws I know of that have passed both public and constitutional scrutiny don't limit spending based on the message; they limit it based on who is speaking - so I can independently run as many ads as I want extolling the virtues of Candidate A, or denouncing Candidate B, but I am limited as to how many of either kind of ad I can run as part of Candidate A's principal campaign. (So if I want full freedom of speech, I had better not be discussing my message with A's campaign manager).
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