News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Drew Angerer / Getty Photos

Supreme Court lets stand a ban on corporate contributions to candidates

The Supreme Court has turned down an opportunity to permit businesses to donate directly to candidates, deviating from a stretch of decisions expanding the "money is free speech" rights of corporate America.

As is routine, the justices made no statement Monday explaining why they decided against hearing the appeal of two family-owned businesses in Massachusetts that challenged the state's prohibition on for-profit companies making campaign donations.

They asked the court to reverse its 2003 decision allowing limits on corporate contributions to candidates, which would have been a significant expansion of the deregulation of campaign financing set in the Citizens United decision nine years ago. That landmark ruling declared that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts on elections so long as money is allocated independently from the candidates.

The two suburban Boston companies, a chain of auto parts stores and a self-storage outfit, were represented by the libertarian Goldwater Institute. They argued the state ban on donations from for-profit corporations to candidates and political committees violated the First Amendment free-speech rights of businesses and the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law, because the restrictions on businesses' political activity are more stringent than for nonprofit corporations and unions.

All federal candidates are barred from accepting donations directly from corporations, and 22 states also ban corporate contributions to candidates, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.


RepresentUs acquired 8,000 signatures on a petition asking Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to keep working on a "revolving door" bill. Paula Barkan, Austin chapter leader of RepresentUs, handed the petition to Brandon Simon, Cruz's Central Texas regional director, on July 31.

Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez still discussing revolving door bill

Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?

To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."

The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.

The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.

Keep reading... Show less

Adults of all ages agree: There's little confidence in elected leaders

But in general, young adults have a lot more trust issues than their elders

Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.

While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."

Keep reading... Show less