The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a notice of appeal [text, PDF] Thursday in the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] to challenge a decision to strike down a federal law that bans corporations from making direct campaign contributions to candidates. The appeal is challenging a decision last month by Judge James Cacheris to dismiss a criminal count [JURIST report] against two men charged with making illegal campaign contributions, citing the controversial Supreme Court decision in Citizens United [opinion; JURIST report]. Fundraisers, William P Danielczyk Jr, chairman of Virginia-based Galen Capital, and its secretary and treasurer, Eugene R Biagi, were indicted for illegally reimbursing individuals for almost $200,000 in contributions to Hillary Clinton's 2006 senate and 2008 presidential primary campaign.
In dismissing the count, Cacheris stated that Citizens United had dissolved the legal underpinnings for the federal ban against direct contributions from corporations to a candidate. Commentators have noted that Cacheris' opinion does not address the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont [opinion], which specifically upheld a ban on corporate contributions to election campaigns. Although Cacheris does acknowledge that another federal judge ruled on the same question but upheld the law, his opinion is silent on the Eighth Circuit's appellate ruling likewise upholding the ban. Cecheris' ruling does not follow the distinction between expenditures and contributions [AP report] upheld by the Eighth Circuit. Despite strong reactions to the ruling, the net impact is unclear because current election law limit individuals to $2,500 per candidate in each election, while corporate political action committees may contribute up to $5,000.