Reagan-appointed federal Judge James Cacheris just ruled that corporations have a constitutional right to contribute money directly to political candidates:
In a ruling issued late Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Cacheris tossed out part of the indictment against two men accused of illegally reimbursing donors to Hillary Clinton’s Senate and presidential campaigns.
Cacheris says that under last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court case, corporations enjoy the same right as people to contribute to campaigns.
The ruling is the first of its kind. The Citizens United case had applied only to independent corporate expenditures, not to actual campaign contributions.
Today’s decision extends beyond the egregious Citizen United decision because Citizens United only permits corporations to run their own ads supporting a candidate or otherwise act independently of a candidate’s campaign. Cacheris’ opinion would also allow the Chamber of Commerce and Koch Industries, for instance, to contribute directly to political campaigns.
If today’s decision is upheld on appeal, it could be the end of any meaningful restrictions on campaign finance — including limits on the amount of money wealthy individuals and corporations can give to a candidate. In most states, all that is necessary to form a new corporation is to file the right paperwork in the appropriate government office. Moreover, nothing prevents one corporation from owning another corporation. Thus, under Cacheris’ decision, a cap on overall contributions becomes meaningless, because corporate donors can simply create a series of shell corporations for the purpose of evading such caps.