Federal District Court, in Criminal Case, Holds That Ban on Direct Corporate Contributions to Candidates is Unconstitutional under Citizens United

Big news broke while the blog was migrating today: A federal district court in Virginia struck down the federal ban on corporate contributions to candidates. You can read the judge’s 52-page opinion in U.S. v. Danielczyk here. The relevant discussion appears on pages 42-46.

I would expect this decision not to stand, or at least to be reconsidered by the judge. The United States Supreme Court in FEC v. Beaumont upheld a ban on corporate contributions in the case of FEC v. Beaumont, and the lower courts that have considered this question have all held that Citizens United did not overrule Beaumont on this question. The most recent case so holding is the Eighth Circuit’s opinion in MCCL v. Swanson, which I noted on the blog on May 16. (The district court in Danielczyk cites to the district court opinion in Swanson and seems unaware of the more recent opinion on appeal.) [Disclosure: I have a case pending in the 9th Circuit City of San Diego case, currently awaiting decision, raising a similar issue. The trial court agreed with the City that the city’s ban on entity contributions to candidates was likely constitutional.]

It is curious that the district court did not discuss Beaumont. In Swanson, all three appellate judges agreed that Beaumont controlled; the concurring judge noted that he was bound by Beaumont even though he thought the Supreme Court might overrule it if it reconsidered the question. Jim Bopp, upon losing the appeal in Swanson, told the Washington Post: “’We don’t expect lower courts to overturn Supreme Court decisions,’ Bopp said, ‘but you do have to raise these issues’ in hopes of getting the subject before the high court again.”

But it may not be the district court judge’s fault in Danielcyzk for not discussing Beaumont. It does not appear the federal government even raised it in its brief.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has a story on the case, but I’ve seen nothing else yet in other national media. I expect I will very soon,

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