Federal law on corporate donations likely factor in Supreme Court rejecting Iowa case

Current law bans corporate contributions in state elections

Published: April 7 2014 | 6:09 pm - Updated: 8 April 2014 | 8:07 am in Nation & World, News,

The United States Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to an Iowa campaign finance case that campaign finance experts say is likely due to similar federal stances on the issue.

Iowa Right to Life v. Tooker challenged the state's ban on corporate contributions to candidates in state elections. Iowa Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, said the ban violates free speech and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Megan Tooker, executive director for the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, said she was "relieved" to hear the Supreme Court wouldn't take up the case. Although Tooker said she wasn't surprised.

"The Supreme Court hasn't given any indication that it's interested in striking bans on corporate contributions to candidates as unconstitutional," she said.

James Bopp, Iowa Right to Life's attorney in the case, did not return multiple calls Monday evening seeking comment on the court's decision. Bopp, an Indiana-based lawyer and prominent conservative attorney, has worked to challenge several campaign finance laws including involvement in the Citizens United case.

The Supreme Court's rejection of the case maintains the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal's June 2013 decision to uphold the restriction.

Tooker noted federal law also prohibits corporations from making direct contributions to political candidates.

Corporations are not restricted on the amount of independent expenditures, the Supreme Court decided in the 2010 Citizens United case.

Drake University political science professor Arthur Sanders said although he hasn't followed Iowa Right to Life's challenge closely, the fact corporate direct donations to candidates is illegal on the federal level likely played a large factor.

"When you have an area like campaign finance law it's often, from a national perspective, better to lead with national law and force states to catch up than the other way around," Sanders said.

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