Supreme Court Turns Away Iowa Right to Life Campaign Finance Case

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Supreme Court Turns Away Iowa Right to Life Campaign Finance Case

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The case would have given the Court a chance to decide if state bans on direct corporate-to-candidate contributions violate the Constitution.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away a request by James Bopp Jr. and Iowa Right to Life (IRTL) to strike down a state law that bans corporations from giving money directly to political candidates in Iowa. The denial of review came just days after the Court struck down individual campaign limits in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.

The case, Iowa Right to Life Committee v. Tooker, raised the issue of whether state bans on direct corporation-to-candidate contributions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. During the 2010 election, Iowa Right to Life wanted to donate to a candidate running for attorney general but claimed the state’s contributions disclosure law prevented it from doing so. That’s because any expenditure over $750 made by IRTL would require it to register as a political action committee (PAC) and disclose its donors, which IRTL does not want to do. The group sued, arguing the law unconstitutionally treated corporations differently than other entities, like labor unions, in their ability to make direct contributions to candidates. IRTL lost at both the district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which upheld the law generally on the grounds that it prevents political corruption.

Had the Supreme Court decided to hear the case, it would have provided an opportunity to consider whether or not groups like IRTL have a “major purpose” in political advocacy and should therefore be subject to disclosure laws. Such a case also would have provided the opportunity for the Court to extend the McCutcheon decision to target those few remaining restrictions on corporate political spending.

The Supreme Court issued its denial without comment, so for now state laws like Iowa’s that set limits on corporate campaign contributions stand.

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