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Supreme Court Will Not Hear Campaign Finance Case On Corporate Donations

The Supreme Court says it won't hear a case that would have let candidates solicit money from corporations. By doing so, the court is reaffirming one strict ban on corporate political money, three years ago after easing other limits in its controversial Citizens United ruling.

Congress outlawed corporate contributions to candidates back in 1907. Now, two businessmen say that Citizens United makes that law unconstitutional – and they claim a First Amendment right to give corporate funds directly to candidates.

The Justice Department is prosecuting investment bankers William Danielczyk and Eugene Biagi for allegedly funneling corporate money into the old Senate and presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton. Prosecutors say the two reimbursed employees for contributions that arrived at the campaigns as small, personal — and legal — donations.

Danielczyk and Biagi challenged the corporate donation ban before the trial began. Monday, the Supreme Court rejected their petition without explanation.

But this refusal is something of an anomaly. Federal courts have dramatically loosened the rules in recent years, most notably with two cases in 2010:

  • In Citizens United, the Supreme Court said that corporations can spend freely to support or attack candidates, and that independent spending cannot be considered a factor of corruption to the candidates who benefit from it.
  • A few weeks after that, a Washington, D.C., appellate court ruled in a case known as SpeechNow that wealthy donors can join together to raise and spend unlimited amounts on independent ads – essentially, the description of a Super PAC.

Last week, the Supreme Court said it will take up a challenge to the overall limit a donor can give during a two-year election cycle. Eliminating that umbrella limit would allow a donor to give the maximum to any and all federal candidates and party committees.

The plaintiff in that case, Shaun McCutcheon of Alabama, along with the Republican National Committee, argues that because the amount of each contribution would still be capped, a guard against corruption would remain in place.

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