This judge is either ignorant or just intentionally extended the Citizens United decision to allow corporations to contribute directly to candidates. If this decision were to stand, it would be the end of our democracy, and I am not exaggerating even a little bit.
A judge has ruled that the campaign-finance law banning corporations from making contributions to federal candidates is unconstitutional, citing the Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United decision last year in his analysis.
In a ruling issued late Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Cacheris tossed out part of an indictment against two men accused of illegally reimbursing donors to Hillary Clinton's Senate and presidential campaigns.
Cacheris says that under the Citizens United decision, corporations enjoy the same rights as individuals to contribute to campaigns.
The ruling from the federal judge in Virginia is the first of its kind. The Citizens United case had applied only to corporate spending on campaigning by independent groups, like ads run by third parties to favor one side, not to direct contributions to the candidates themselves.
Cacheris noted in his ruling that only one other court has addressed the issue in the wake of Citizens United. A federal judge in Minnesota ruled the other way, allowing a state ban on corporate contributions to stand.
The reason this is so devastating (and the reason corporations are barred from direct contributions), is because corporate entities place a barrier between individual owners and disclosure. Forget AT&T. Imagine the Kochtopus tentacles that could spread out and envelop this entire country. Incorporate in New Jersey, where no disclosure of actual corporate owners is required, and reach into every local, state, and national campaign in the country to fund candidates. Disclosure will be meaningless, because these entities will be unknown and essentially created for the purpose of receiving funds and transmitting them to candidates of choice.
Judge Cacheris, a Reagan appointee, framed his decision [PDF] using Citizens United logic, expanding it:
The Supreme Court’s logic was that because Buckley found that independent contributions by human beings do not corrupt, and because Bellotti held that “the First Amendment does not allow political speech restrictions based on a speaker’s corporate identity,” 130 S. Ct. at 903, corporations cannot be banned from making the same independent expenditures as individuals. 130 S. Ct. at 899-903.
That logic is inescapable here. If human beings can make direct campaign contributions within FECA’s limits without risking quid pro quo corruption or its appearance, and if, in Citizens United’s interpretation of Bellotti, corporations and human beings are entitled to equal political speech rights, then corporations must also be able to contribute within FECA’s limits.
There is another ruling in Minnesota which ruled opposite, so now there are conflicting decisions, meaning this will likely head to the US Supreme Court, and I think we could all guess where they'd take it on a 5-4 decision. Sigh.
[h/t Think Progress]