A federal judge has ruled that a ban on direct corporate giving to candidates is unconstitutional, in a case that will probably filter up to the Supreme Court, which needless to say has not been a great ally for campaign finance types. The judge, James Cacheris, used the Citizens United ruling on corporate giving as his basis. But this takes it a step further, by saying that direct corporate donations to candidates are permissible, rather than corporate spending to outside groups.
In a ruling issued late Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Cacheris tossed out part of an indictment against two men accused of illegally reimbursing donors to Hillary Clinton’s Senate and presidential campaigns.
Cacheris says that under the Citizens United decision, corporations enjoy the same rights as individuals to contribute to campaigns [...]
“(F)or better or worse, Citizens United held that there is no distinction between an individual and a corporation with respect to political speech,” Cacheris wrote in his 52-page opinion. “Thus, if an individual can make direct contributions within (the law’s) limits, a corporation cannot be banned from doing the same thing.”
There is direct precedent against corporate donations to individual candidates going back a century. But I’d have to regard that logic as appealing to the five Justices who ruled on Citizens United. That ruling was a slippery slope. If corporate giving to third parties is permissible, why not to federal candidates? If unlimited spending is OK to third parties, why not to individual candidates? If those third-party organizations aren’t yet forced to disclose their donations, why should individual candidates? Citizens United really called into question all campaign finance laws, in many respects. Unless and until the legislative and executive branches move to change the law that the Supreme Court made, you’re likely to see a continued chipping away.
More from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the specifics of the case.