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Judge may reconsider ruling on corporate donations ban

A federal judge this week may reconsider his ruling that the ban on corporations giving money directly to political candidates is unconstitutional.

Judge James Cacheris of the U.S. District for the Eastern District of Virginia delivered a shocking ruling in a criminal case on May 27 stating that if corporations are entitled to the same freedom of speech rights as individuals -- as was recently ruled by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case -- then corporations should have the same rights as individuals when donating money to political campaigns.

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Cacheris used the ruling to dismiss a charge against two Virginia men who were accused of illegally donating money to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi's archbishop calls for Communion to be withheld from public figures supporting abortion rights Hillary Clinton: Biden less 'constrained' than Clinton and Obama due to prior administration Biden's unavoidable foreign policy crisis MORE’s Senate and presidential campaigns.

But this week the prosecution team, citing its own failure to raise the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2003 Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont case that upheld the federal ban on corporations donating directly to political campaigns, asked the court to reconsider its decision.

“Although the government did not cite Beaumont, and regrets its omission, the defendants have nevertheless previously conceded that the relevant Supreme Court precedents include Beaumont,” said federal prosecutors in a motion to reconsider. 

Cacheris allowed the motion and on Friday agreed to decide by early next week whether he would reconsider his ruling. 

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.

Cacheris sited the Citizens United decision in his initial ruling last week. 

“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.

Prosecutors in the Virginia case argue that only the Supreme Court has the right to overturn the longstanding ban on corporate contributions. Unless the high court does rule differently, they say, Cacheris is bound by their previous decision, which upholds the ban.

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.