Citizens United Victory as Judge Rules Corporate Donations Ban Unconstitutional

Citizens United Victory as Judge Yules Corporate Donations Ban Unconstitutional

Citizens United Victory as Judge Yules Corporate Donations Ban Unconstitutional Opens Door For More Corporate Financed Right Wingers

A U.S. judge ruled that the campaign finance law that had banned corporations from making contributions to federal candidates is unconstitutional, stating that a recent Supreme Court decision gives companies the same right to donate as individual citizens enjoy. The ruling, issued late Thursday by U.S. District Judge James Cacheris tossed out part of an indictment against two people charged with illegally reimbursing donors to Hillary Clinton’s 22006 Senate and 2008 presidential campaigns.

Cacheris says that under the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision which was made last year, that corporations have the right to give to federal candidates. The ruling from the Virginia federal judge is the first of its kind for the country. The Citizens United case had applied only to corporate spending on campaign activities by independent groups to date, such as ads run by third parties to favor one side, and not to direct contributions to the candidates themselves.

Cacheris noted in his ruling that only one other court has addressed the issue in the wake of Citizens United ruling. A federal judge in Minnesota ruled the other way, allowing a state ban on corporate contributions to stand.

This is an excerpt from Cacheris’s 52-page opinion, “For better or worse, Citizens United held that there is no distinction between an individual and a corporation with respect to political speech, Thus, if an individual can make direct contributions within (the law’s) limits, a corporation cannot be banned from doing the same thing.”

In the released court papers, federal prosecutors defending the law said overturning the ban on corporate contributions would ignore a century of legal precedent. According to prosecutor Mark Lytle, who wrote the following in his argument to keep the indicment intact, “Defendants would have the court throw out a century of jurisprudence upholding the ban on corporate political contributions, by equating expenditures – which the Court struck down in Citizens United – with contributions. This is, however, equating apples and oranges.”

In the count that was tossed out, defendants William P. Danielczyk Jr. and Eugene R. Biagi were charged with helping funnel corporate funds to the presidential campaign of Clinton, now the U.S. secretary of state. Specifically, they were charged with using money from the corporation they controlled, Galen Capital Group, to reimburse individuals who made contributions in their own names.

Defense lawyers, though, said the implications of the Citizens United case are clear. Biagi’s lawyer, Todd Richman, a public defender wrote in his court papers “Corporate political speech can now be regulated, only to the same extent as the speech of individuals or other speakers. That is because Citizens United establishes that there can be no distinction between corporate and other speakers in the regulation of political speech.”

Democracy 21′ president, Fred Wertheimer, which is a Washington-based group that supports campaign finance reform, said Friday that Cacheris overstepped his bounds and ignored the Supreme Courts rulings previously issued before Citizens United that explicitly upheld the ban on corporate contributions. If the Supreme Court had wanted this ban to be overturned, it could have done so directly in the Citizens United case. He went on to state that “This decision ought to be appealed, and it ought to be overturned.”

Daniel Ortiz, a University of Virginia law professor stated in response to the ruling, that this ruling “pushes the outer limits of the Citizens United logic,”and that he doesn’t expect it to stand. He also stated that The Citizens United case makes a distinction, between independent expenditures by corporations that are not coordinating with a federal candidate’s campaign, and direct campaign contributions.

Which brings us to a more disturbing point, that Citizens United is tied directly to the GOP and Tea Party. While Citizens United alone did not win the 2010 elections for Republicans, the money it let loose helped ensure that those swept to power by widespread voter dissatisfaction would be eager to pander to the interests of corporations and the wealthy, and to demonize those who oppose them. Instrumental in this movement were the Koch brothers, the manufacturers behind Americans for Prosperity and central organizers in the movement to create a government more concerned with corporate profits, not American citizens. Americans for Prosperity, now freed by the new rules governing corporate spending and unencumbered by financial disclosure requirements, spent millions of dollars on federal races in 2010. Koch-backed groups were even implicated in a “voter caging” scheme to suppress the turnout of progressive voters.

What is perhaps most troubling about the post-Citizens United flood of corporate money in politics is the free rein that it has given for corporations to hide behind front groups to run misleading ads without ever being held accountable for their content. Americans for Prosperity is now employing the same tactics it used to smear health care reform in key House districts in its ad campaign against the Wisconsin unions. Like in its ads falsely claiming that health care reform hurt Medicare recipients, the group’s ads in Wisconsin pretend to champion populist values while pushing a decidedly anti-populist agenda. The ads seek not only to spew disinformation and misinform voters, but to blame ordinary Americans for problems that they were not the cause of.

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