In 2018, the New Jersey Bankers Association, a trade association of regional banking institutions, initiated this First Amendment challenge to New Jersey’s century-old law prohibiting campaign contributions by banks and certain other corporate entities that pose a heightened risk of corruption in the political process. The lawsuit also alleges that New Jersey’s law imposes an unconstitutional ban on independent expenditures by banks and other corporations, but the state disputes that interpretation of the law. Earlier this year, the plaintiff and the state filed cross-motions for summary judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
CLC filed an amicus brief in defense of New Jersey’s ban on contributions by banks and certain other corporations on Dec. 1, 2020. CLC’s brief surveys analogous prohibitions against contributions by corporations and other highly regulated groups at the federal, state and local level and describes the substantial body of case law upholding similar contribution restrictions. The brief also points to numerous examples of pay-to-play scandals implicating the financial services and banking industries to illustrate the anti-corruption interests served by New Jersey’s bank contribution ban. Finally, CLC’s brief establishes that the state’s prohibition on bank contributions advances core First Amendment principles by protecting New Jersey residents’ right to meaningful self-government in our democracy.