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Judge Reaffirms Ruling Allowing Corporate Campaign Donations

A federal judge in Virginia reaffirmed his ruling Tuesday that may allow corporations to donate money to candidates for Congress and the White House for the first time in more than a century.

The federal government asked U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris to reconsider his May 26 ruling that found that two lawyers did not break laws by using corporate funds to reimburse donations made by employees.

Federal prosecutors specifically asked Cacheris to revisit the case in light of Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont, a Supreme Court Case from 2003 that many believe upheld the long-standing ban on corporate donations to federal candidates.

But Cacheris’ ruling did not change because he viewed much of the case through 2010’s Citizens United v. FEC ruling, which allowed corporations and unions to use corporate funds to donate to organizations running advertisements to affect federal campaigns.

“Having considered the positions of parties and amici, this Court will deny the Government’s motion except to clarify that [a legal provision’s] flat ban on direct corporate contributions to political campaigns is unconstitutional,” the judge wrote Tuesday.

The government would not say immediately whether it would appeal the decision. “We are reviewing the opinion,” Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said. 

Campaign finance lawyers believe the decision applies to only a small section of the country, allowing federal candidates to raise donations only from Virginia companies, and even those contributions would be subject to donation limits.

If higher courts affirm the decision, the implications could be huge because it would reverse a ban on corporate donations to federal candidates, which has stood since the Tillman Act was enacted in 1907.

The ruling surprised and disappointed the campaign finance community, which expected Cacheris to reverse his decision.

“This is an extraordinary and misguided decision,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, who added that Cacheris did not address the Supreme Court’s decision in the Beaumont case in his initial ruling 12 days ago. “Now, the judge has chosen to knowingly overturn a Supreme Court decision.”

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