The Republican Party is using the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision to further break down barriers to corporate political spending in order to compete with Super PACs that are dominating the primary season with unlimited amounts of corporate money.
In a friend-of-the-court brief, the Republican National Committee Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to overturn a nearly century-old ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates, arguing the Supreme Court's holding in Citizens United eviscerated any rationale for upholding the overly-broad ban.
The RNC wants the contribution ban overturned to compete with the Super PACs that take in unlimited amounts of corporate money to be independently spent on behalf of a candidate or to trash a rival.
[The contribution ban] artificially disadvantages political party and candidate committees, the RNC wrote, by forcing them to rely on aggregating small-dollar donations from individuals while allowing other political actors such as independent-expenditure committees--that is, Super PACs--to receive unlimited corporate donations.
The result of Citizens United, the RNC brief said, is that traditional political parties and candidate committees are in danger of having their voices drowned out.
Oddly enough, the RNC's brief was filed on behalf of two Democratic supporters of Hillary Clinton who were indicted in February for allegedly spending $186,600 in corporate money to reimburse individual donors.
The two Clinton boosters--William Danielczyk and Eugene Biagi--are fighting the campaign spending charges on First Amendment grounds.
The case could be the vehicle for getting the Supreme Court to strike down another federal campaign finance law.
A federal judge in Virginia has already deemed the flat contribution ban unconstitutional, though he limited his holding to the criminal case before him, instead applying it to all corporate donations. The Department of Justice appealed the decision to the Fourth Circuit.
The Supreme Court in 2003 upheld the ban on corporate contributions in a case involving a nonprofit company. District Court Judge James C. Cacheris said the 2003 ruling, FEC v. Beaumont, was gravely wounded by Citizens United. He also said that the holding in Beaumont was limited to nonprofits, instead of corporations.
The RNC urged the appeals court to uphold District Court Judge James C. Cacheris' decision striking down the corporate contribution ban.
Citizens United and its progeny have made it readily apparent, the RNC wrote, that such restrictions are antithetical to the First Amendment.