June 16, 2003
Public Citizen Applauds Supreme Court Decision in Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont; Opinion Draws Firm Line Against Corporate Campaign Contributions
Statement of Scott Nelson, Attorney, Public Citizen
Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont strikes a significant blow against efforts to circumvent campaign laws that limit political contributions by individuals and require corporations to make political contributions only through federally regulated political action committees (PACs). In the Beaumont opinion, the Court holds that it is constitutional to apply a broad restriction on corporate campaign contributions to non-profit advocacy corporations such as North Carolina Right to Life, the principal plaintiff in the case.
The Court’s decision highlights the century-long history of legislative efforts to limit corporate influence over the electoral process. It also emphasizes the appropriateness of deferring to Congress’s choices about how to regulate corporate electioneering. The Court reaffirms its prior decisions that recognize the corrosive effects of corporate wealth on the political process and the appearance of corruption that results when the contents of corporate war chests are poured into elections. The opinion stresses the need to avoid the circumvention of contribution limits that can result when individuals funnel money to candidates through organizations, and it strongly rejects the argument that contribution limits should be subject to “strict scrutiny” under the First Amendment.
The principles animating today’s decision also will provide strong support for the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act when it reaches the Court in September. Public Citizen, on behalf of itself and four other public interest groups, filed an amicus curiae brief in the Beaumont case supporting the result the Supreme Court has reached today. We are very pleased that the Court has agreed with our arguments and sustained the important limits on corporate campaign contributions that were at stake. More important, we are optimistic that the same important interests that led the Court to sustain the law at issue in Beaumont will lead to a similar result when the Court turns its attention to the new campaign reform law this fall.