A federal judge on Thursday struck down a ban on corporate campaign contributions, a move that could have a far-reaching impact in the world of politics and beyond.
The ruling is expected to be appealed, and will likely eventually wind its way to the Supreme Court. But, according to Politico, if it survives it would mean that corporations would be able to donate the same amount of money to political candidates as individuals can: $2,500 for the primary contest and then another $2,500 for the general election.
U.S. District Judge James Cacheris based his ruling largely on a controversial 2010 decision by the Supreme Court widely known as Citizens United. That decision gave corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on third-party ads supporting or opposing political candidates, but stopped short of allowing them to donate directly to a candidate's campaign.
The Associated Press has the pull quote from the written decision:
"(F)or better or worse, Citizens United held that there is no distinction between an individual and a corporation with respect to political speech," Cacheris wrote in his 52-page opinion. "Thus, if an individual can make direct contributions within (the law's) limits, a corporation cannot be banned from doing the same thing."
The impact of the ruling could grow exponentially if combined with expected legal challenges to the existing contribution limits.
Naturally, opponents of corporate donations are already sounding the alarm.
"If you were to hypothetically eliminate the ban on corporate contributions and the contribution limits, you would establish a system of legalized corruption of our government and our elected officials," Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, told Politico. "I can’t see the courts going there, but you have to deal with these things one step at a time."
The ruling was part of a criminal case brought by the federal government against two men who allegedly reimbursed their employees for their contributions to Hillary Clinton’s 2006 Senate campaign and her 2008 presidential run.