A federal judge ruled Thursday the ban on corporations giving money directly to political candidates is unconstitutional.

In a case involving two Virginia men accused of illegally donating money to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSupreme Court agrees to hear 'faithless elector' cases Poll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire Climate 'religion' is fueling Australia's wildfires MORE’s Senate and presidential campaigns, Judge James Cacheris of the U.S. District for the Eastern District of Virginia delivered a ruling on Thursday that dismissed a charge against two men by finding that if corporations are entitled to the same freedom of speech rights as individuals -- as was ruled by the Supreme Court -- then corporations should have the same rights as individuals when donating money to political campaigns.


In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations have a right under the First Amendment to financially back a political candidate by purchasing media ads for or against them. 

The high court, however, did not rule on whether corporations were entitled to the same rights as individuals when it comes to making direct contributions to candidates.

“If human beings can make direct campaign contributions within [the Federal Election Campaign Act’s] limits without risking quid pro quo corruption or its appearance, and if… corporations and human beings are entitled to equal political speech rights, then corporations must also be able to contribute within FECA’s limits,” said Cacheris in his 52-page ruling.

In February, a federal grand jury handed down a 7-count indictment against the two men, William Danielczyk and Eugene Biagi, accusing them of reimbursing donors for $186,600 worth of contributions to the Senate and presidential campaigns of Clinton, and obstructing the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the FBI.

Danielczyk and Biagi were accused in-part of violating the Federal Election Campaign Act’s ban on corporations giving directly to political candidates.

But Cacheris’ ruling, which is likely to end up being heard by the Supreme Court, expands the rights given to corporations by saying they should be allowed the same rights as individuals when it comes to making direct political contributions. 

“But for better or worse, Citizens United held that there is no distinction between an individual and a corporation with respect to political speech. Thus, if an individual can make direct contributions within FECA’s limits, a corporation cannot be banned from doing the same thing,” he said in his ruling.

The campaign finance watchdog group, Campaign Legal Center, said the ruling was "way out of line" and called on Cacheris to reverse his decision.

“We hope that the Judge James Cacheris reconsiders this decision,” the group's associate legal counsel, Tara Malloy, said in a statement. “If not, the government should appeal this decision to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.”

This post was updated at 3:29 p.m.