Campaign Legal Center & Democracy 21 File Brief in Appeal of Decision Overturning Century-Old Law Banning Corporate Contributions to Candidates & Parties


Today, the Campaign Legal Center, along with Democracy 21, filed an amici brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in U.S. v Danielczyk, an appeal of a controversial district court decision overturning the century-old federal restriction on corporate contributions to candidates and political parties.

The corporate contribution restriction overturned in the case dates back to the Tillman Act of 1907, signed into law by President Teddy Roosevelt in the wake of the Gilded Age, an era awash in political corruption and campaign finance scandals.  Since that time the restriction on corporate political contributions has been upheld repeatedly by the U.S. Supreme Court, most recently in FEC v Beaumont in 2003.  The May 2011 lower court decision overturning the 104-year-old law, issued by Judge Cacheris of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, failed to consider or even cite Beaumont.  Criticism of the action led to a rebriefing of the case, though Judge Cacheris eventually reaffirmed his earlier decision, refusing to abide by Beaumont and other controlling Supreme Court precedent.

“This judicial overreach, if left standing, will authorize large-scale circumvention of existing contribution limits and give rise to political corruption and the appearance of corruption,” said Campaign Legal Center Associate Counsel Tara Malloy.  “In the post-Citizens United world, corporate vehicles are already being misused to avoid disclosure and the district court’s Danielczyk decision invites the additional evasion of contribution limits.  We do not need another decision that will further undermine public faith in their elected officials and the judiciary.”

“The corporate contribution ban was upheld by the Supreme Court less than a decade ago in FEC v. Beaumont, and a federal district judge cannot overrule direct rulings by the Supreme Court,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer.  “Furthermore, the district court judge was clearly wrong in saying that the ‘logic’ of the Supreme Court’s misguided Citizens United decision also requires the invalidation of the ban on corporate contributions.  The Supreme Court, which has long distinguished between contribution restrictions and spending restrictions, never addressed the corporate contribution ban in Citizens United and did not overturn the Beaumont decision which remains the law of the land.”

The case, U.S. v. Danielczyk, is a criminal matter concerning a number of alleged campaign finance violations, including that the defendants illegally directed corporate contributions to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign.

The Campaign Legal Center took the lead in preparing the brief.

To read the brief, click here.