Supreme Court Finds a (Temporary) Limit On Corporate Election Cash

Apparently even the Roberts court has a limit when it comes to corporate cash in our elections. The question is, will it hold?

Last week the court declined to hear a case challenging a 100-year old ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates. The refusal leaves that ban in place which means, for the moment at least, corporations can’t DIRECTLY purchase politicians and will have to settle for indirectly bribing members of Congress as is the current practice.

The challenged involved two fundraisers for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Those funders were indicted in 2011 by the Department of Justice for allegedly reimbursing employees for their political donations to Clinton. Those reimbursements amount to a direct political contribution. The funders argued that thanks to the Citizens United decision, those kinds of prohibitions were unconstitutional. So far the lower courts have disagreed. In this particular case, so to did the Supreme Court.

It’s hard to know how to read the decision not to take up the case, in part because it comes just after the court did agree to review a separate case that challenges the limits on individual donations to candidates and PACs. That case will be argued later this year.

The Roberts Court has been very friendly to wealthy political donors, affording them one of the greatest expansions of electoral access via “free speech rights” in modern history. It’s tempting to chalk the refusal to take a swipe at the direct ban as a matter of circumstance. After all, to review and presumably overturn the ban would have the effect of bailing out Hillary Clinton donors. We all know Justice Scalia has no interest in doing that.

More seriously though, it’s clear the court is searching for some limits and boundaries on the relationship between money, speech and politics which should give us all pause when we think of the battles that still lie ahead. 2012 may have been a historic year in terms of election spending, but that election only deepened partisan divides. 2014 will be a mid-term battle that puts 2010 to shame, and with an open presidential slot in 2016, it’s not an understatement to suggest their may be no greater issue before the court this term.

Related Stories:

Senate Republicans Fight For Dirty Elections

Cracks In GOP Base Over Campaign Finance Reform?

Women Will Need To Spend Big This Election

Photo from 401K(2013) via flickr.


Beverly T.
Beverly T4 years ago

I'd like to use one of Al Sahrpton's favorite quotes here.....

"Is that a light at the end of the tunnel or a train coming ?"

Today my cynical, pessimistic, helpless, hopeless buttons just seemed to have been pushed so many times that I am in overload.
I honestly don't know what to BELIEVE any more.

Audrey B.
Audrey B4 years ago

I agree to much money is spent on these elections. All the money they spend could feed and house alot of households. I think there should be a limit. Any excess money should be pumped into Social Security & Medicare.

Corporations should not be buying a Candidate, causing more & more Coruption. I would not want my union dues going to these Candidates. Plus I think Unions are ruining the Country.

BUY U.S.A. stop buying Toxic China products. We need to encourage companies to stay in the U.S. keep our money here not overseas.

Ram Reddy
Ram Reddy4 years ago

Thanks for the article

Bill Reese
Bill Reese4 years ago

When you belong to a Union, and if you do not want your money going to a partictular canidate, but the Union decides it will give the money to the opposite party you have not voice, they just sent your money to help elect the person you did not want elected.

I was also wondering how Mr. Obama came up with almost a billion dollars for his campaign but no one is questioning where he got it. does anyone remember when he was a Sen. for Ill and he was practicaly broke, and he is not worth several hundred of millions of dollars, strange how these things happen.

Scot Roberts
Scot Roberts4 years ago

John S.

Whether money impacts elections or not is tough to say. I would say small elections are more impacted than large ones. If a candidate is unknown and doesn't have the resources to be known, then he/she will get trounced. In the case of the presidential elections last year....Romney far outspent Obama.

As for your comment of unions donating money to candidates whether members like it or not is misleading. Unions donate to the candidate that supports the best interest of the union. Most often a vote by members is unnecessary, but I have been involved in union votes to decide which candidate the majority wants to support.

Marie W.
Marie W4 years ago

Just go the Congress supermarket and place the Rep of choice in cart- pull company credit card and buy.

P D T.
pablo T4 years ago

Seriously, the supreme court is just another institution controlled by the corporations and politic corrupt.

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert4 years ago

We'll see, but I'd put good money on at least one conservative retirement from the Court in the next 3 years (likely to a pine box).

Brian F.
Brian F4 years ago

We need to radically change our Supreme court. First, let's cut their $185,000 a year salaries and block all corporate bribes to them from being accepted. Let's overturn the corrupt Citizen United decission that allows corporations to buy our goverment, and let's end lifetime appointments so we don't get corrupt conservative liars like Roberts, Scalia, and others who are bought and paid for by corporate America. Indeed America's Supreme court is a criminal institution, that is owned by corporate America. This, and the republican party, who are puppets of corporations, is the main problem with America.

John S.
Past Member 4 years ago

What's the difference between this and what unions due (except unions donate to a candidate whether or not you want to, which I guess answers my own question). And, does anyone have any facts that says money impacts elections? What would work better is remove all references to party on the ballots, then people will actually have to know who they are voting for.