Fourth Circuit Overturns Decision That Struck Down Century-Old Law Banning Corporate Contributions to Candidates & Parties


Today, in U.S. v Danielczyk, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed a district court decision which had ignored U.S. Supreme Court precedent in order to strike down the century-old federal ban on corporate contributions to candidates and political parties. The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed an amici brief in the Fourth Circuit urging the result reached today.

The corporate contribution restriction dates to the Tillman Act of 1907, signed into law by President Teddy Roosevelt in an era marked by political corruption and campaign finance scandals.  The ban on corporate political contributions has been upheld repeatedly by the Supreme Court in the intervening decades, most recently in FEC v Beaumont in 2003.  The May 2011 decision striking down the law, issued by Judge Cacheris of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, had failed to consider or even cite Beaumont.  When the omission led to widespread criticism, Judge Cacheris ordered a rebriefing of the case, but eventually reaffirmed his earlier decision, essentially disregarding the Beaumontprecedent again.

“We are pleased the Fourth Circuit corrected the gross judicial overreach by the lower court,” said Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel Tara Malloy.  “InCitizens United and this week in the Montana decision, the Supreme Court may have turned a blind eye toward the potential for corruption, or its appearance, posed by ‘independent expenditures.’  But the Supreme Court and the lower courts have been very clear in affirming the constitutionality of the ban on direct corporate contributions.  The attempt to overturn the corporate contribution ban was an invitation to a return to the blatant political corruption and rampant scandals of the Gilded Age.”

“Today’s decision is a major victory against those who are attempting to use the courts to strike down all of the protections against corruption that are embodied in the nation’s campaign finance laws,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer. “While the disastrous Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court struck down the ban against corporate expenditures in campaigns, opponents have been repeatedly unsuccessful in the lower federal courts in their numerous attempts to strike down bans on corporate contributions, campaign finance disclosure laws, and other important campaign finance provisions. Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center are committed to continuing to meet these legal challenges head on in the courts by intervening in cases where necessary and filing amicus briefs. At stake in these legal battles is the fundamental issue of whether laws can be enacted to protect citizens against the corruption of our democracy.”

The case, U.S. v. Danielczyk, was a criminal matter involving numerous allegations of campaign finance violations, including that the defendants illegally directed corporate contributions to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign.

To read the brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.

To read the decision, click here.