Supreme Court Won’t Nix Ban on Corporate Money to Candidates

February 25, 2013; Source: Christian Science Monitor

Without comment, the justices of the Supreme Court refused to consider a case challenging the century-old ban on corporate contributions to political candidates. The law currently permits donations to candidates of as much as $2,500 from individuals, partnerships, and limited liability companies, but not from corporations. The plaintiffs in Danielczyk v. U.S. contended that the law prohibiting corporate contributions was a violation of their free speech.

Interestingly, this case involved two Galen Capital corporate executives, William Danielczyk and Eugene Biagi, who wanted to contribute corporate moneys to support the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Their defense was that the prohibition against corporate campaign donations violated the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which helped unleash the free flow of funds to PACs and 501(c)(4)s.

Certainly, the Galen execs engaged in a bit of subterfuge here. They hosted two fundraisers for Clinton in which Galen employees were invited to attend. Danielczyk promised that the company would reimburse their donations, which amounted to $156,400. Galen listed the corporate expenditures as consulting fees, paying the employees a bit more than they actually donated.

A lower court agreed with the Galen execs, but it was overturned on appeal when a higher court ruled that Citizens United didn’t apply to (or overturn, anyhow) the law concerning donations to candidates. We don’t know what was in the collective SCOTUS mind in rejecting the case, but we hope that their thinking touched on either or both of two points: that spending money on campaigns is not the equivalent of free speech and that corporations, unlike you and me, are not persons. —Rick Cohen