WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) — The United States Supreme Court on Feb. 25 declined to hear a case that might have eliminated a ban on corporations making direct donations to political candidates.
The decision not to hear the case Danielczyk vs. U.S. essentially means there are some limits on corporations’ constitutional rights.
The case involves William Danielczyk, the CEO of Innolog Holdings who was indicted for allegely funneling money into Hillary Clinton’s campaigns. He wanted the Justices to eliminate the ban on direct corporate political donations.
He argued that the contributions that led to his indictment are the same as the indirect contributions allowed under the Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. In that ruling, the Court said the First Amendment gave businesses the right to spend freely on political campaigns as long as the corporations don’t give directly to candidates.
On his Election Law Blog, Rick Hasen called the Court’s decision significant.
“It means the Supreme Court majority, which has shown hostility to campaign finance limits, has decided not to move as aggressively as it could in further deregulating the campaign finance system,” Hasen wrote.
Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg called the decision good news.
“The court eliminated a potential threat to impartial courts when it decided not to hear an appeal in Danielczyk vs. U.S., a case that challenged a ban on direct corporate contributions to federal candidates,” he said in a statement. “Special-interest spending on court elections has exploded in the past decade. Nationally, high court candidates raised $206.9 million in 2000-2009, more than double the $83.3 million raised in the 1990s. Final fundraising numbers are not available yet for 2012, but TV ad spending in state Supreme Court elections climbed to a record-breaking $29.7 million.
“As these figures continue to climb, three Americans in four say they believe campaign cash influences courtroom decisions. Moreover, many corporations are wary of being pressed for campaign contributions by candidates for office.
“In this climate, we are concerned about new threats to fair courts.
“A broad and adverse decision in Danielczyk could have affected similar laws in close to twenty states that ban direct corporate contributions to judicial candidates.
“Removing bans on direct contributions to judicial campaigns by corporations, some of whom may have a case before a judge, could further harm public trust in fair courts. Interest group spending also imperils our right to impartial justice by pressuring judges to rule with one eye on big-money contributors.
“In addition to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Danielczyk, the Second, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits have rejected similar challenges to corporate contributions bans. No circuit has held bans on corporate contributions directly to candidates unconstitutional.”