Justice to SCOTUS: Don't allow direct corporate campaign spending

by - January 31, 2013

The Securities and Exchange Commission, meanwhile, is considering a proposed rule to require such disclosures, which, predictably, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes. All told, the Center for Public Integrity estimates, Citizens United opened the way for almost $1 billion of new political spending in 2012.

That could be only the tip of the iceberg, according to a Jan. 23 brief by the Justice Department, if the Supreme Court extends First Amendment protection to direct corporate campaign contributions, and not just to the independent expenditures addressed in Citizens United.

The Justice Department's brief asks the Supreme Court to deny a bid for review by two Hillary Clinton fundraisers indicted for campaign finance violations. As I've reported, William Danielczyk and Eugene Biagi were charged with, among other things, illegally reimbursing Clinton donors with corporate funds, in violation of the law against giving corporate treasury money directly to political candidates. Last year, a U.S. district judge cited Citizens United and dismissed those counts of the indictment, but the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the charges last June, holding that direct political contributions do not merit the heightened First Amendment scrutiny the Supreme Court applied in Citizens United. According to the appeals court, there's a difference between the independent expenditures (read: political action committee contributions and issue-oriented spending) that were at issue in Citizens United and direct political contributions to candidates, which aren't protected by the First Amendment under the Supreme Court's 2003 ruling in Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont.

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