The Supreme Court Won’t Hear “Citizens United on Steroids” Case

The United States Supreme Court.<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/brendel/2677168754/">S.E.B.</a>/Flickr

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


That whooshing sound you just heard was campaign finance reformers breathing a deep sigh of relief. On Monday morning, the Supreme Court declined to take up a lawsuit named Danielczyk v. United States, a challenge to one of the oldest laws in campaign politics: the ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates.

The case stems from donations that two Virginia businessmen, William Danielczyk and Eugene Biagi, made to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. Danielczyk and Biagi gave to Clinton’s campaign under the impression that they would be reimbursed by the private equity firm that employed them. Instead Danielczyk and Biagi were prosecuted by the Department of Justice for violating the century-old ban on corporate contributions. They responded by fighting to dismiss the charges. Their attorneys argued that the Supreme Court’s logic in the Citizens United case—that independent expenditures do not corrupt or create the appearance of corruption—applied to donations directly to candidates. Thus the ban on corporate donations, they argued, was unconstitutional. In 2011, a federal district court agreed with Danielczyk’s lawyers and dismissed the charges, but the case was later reversed on appeal.

When Danielczyk reached the Supreme Court, supporters of tougher campaign finance laws feared that the court might go even further than Citizens United by demolishing the ban on direct corporate donations, one of the last remaining pillars of campaign finance law in US. They had reason to worry: Last week, the high court agreed to the hear the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, another troublesome case in the eyes of the reformers. McCutcheon challenges the overall cap on what donors can give to candidates, parties, and political action committees, currently set at $46,200 to federal candidates and $70,800 to parties and PACs over a two-year election cycle. That limit is nearly 40 years old, dating back to the post-Watergate era, and if it falls, the reformers fear that future challenges to, say, the limit on donating to a candidate (now at $2,600 a year) could fall, too.

The Supreme Court could, sometime down the road, reconsider the corporate donation ban. But for now, the reformers have received a small bit of good news at an otherwise bleak point in the political money wars.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate