Civitas Review

RNC Joins Lawsuit Challenging Absurdities of Current Campaign Finance Law


Politico reports on new developments in a major campaign finance legal case:

The century-old ban on corporate donations to federal political campaigns should be junked as unconstitutional, the Republican National Committee argued in a legal brief filed Tuesday that could lead to new attacks on the GOP as beholden to corporate money.

The GOP brief filed with a federal appeals court contends that the ban which became law back in 1908 violates the First Amendment in light of recent Supreme Court rulings, including the 2010 Citizens United decision which allowed unlimited donations to independent-expenditure groups.

Republican National Committee Chief Counsel John R. Phillippe, Jr. and RNC lawyer Gary Lawkowski contend that the only legitimate rationale for the corporate donation ban now is to prevent an end-run around individual donation limits and that's not an adequate basis to uphold the ban.

"The complete ban both is over-inclusive to this aim and artificially disadvantages political party and candidate committees. It is over-inclusive because it bans all corporate donations without regard to the ability of corporate donors to attribute their donations to individuals. It artificially disadvantages political party and candidate committees by forcing them to rely on aggregating small-dollar donations from individuals while allowing other political actors, such as independent-expenditure-only political action committees, to receive unlimited corporate donations," the GOP lawyers wrote.

After the landmark Citizen's United ruling in 2009, the previous campaign finance structure was effectively destroyed. Previous limits on political speech were removed, and it became possible for unions, companies, groups, and individuals to spend unlimited sums of money to promote their viewpoints and preferred candidates. While the ruling was certainly a victory for free speech, Congress's failure to adequately adjust campaign finance laws after the ruling has reduced the financial aspects of campaigning to absurdities and may be undermining the ability of the Republican and Democrat National Committees to govern their respective parties.

The SuperPACs  promoting the various Republican candidates illustrate this point. Why are multimillionaire casino tycoons and even a candidate's father allowed to donate unlimited sums to these "independent expenditure" groups, but prevented from donating those sums directly to the candidates? Similarly, if a corporation can funnel unlimited funding into campaign expenditures, why can't they donate to the parties themselves?

Sooner or later, Congress will have to update the current regulatory system. These reforms should seek to preserve political free-speech rights while keeping an even playing field for independent expenditure groups, political parties, and individual candidates.

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