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Brian Dowling Thursday, September 06, 2018

The Supreme Judicial Court upheld the state’s ban on corporate political contributions as constitutional in a case brought by a business owned by Republican candidate for the 3rd congressional district Rick Green.

“Both history and common sense have demonstrated that, when corporations make contributions to political candidates, there is a risk of corruption, both actual and perceived,” the court wrote.

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In two concurring opinions, the state’s high court also declined to side with the businesses in extending the political contribution limits to unions, which, unlike businesses, currently can give money to candidates and political action committees.

The case was brought by 1A Auto, Inc., a Pepperell auto parts dealer co-founded and owned by Green, and 126 Self Storage Inc. in Ashland.

Lawyers backing the case from the conservative Arizona Goldwater Institute also challenged limitations on company political contributions in Kentucky, where courts sided with the businesses and the state now allows corporations to contribute to political actions committees.

The court explained that businesses cannot contribute directly to a campaign, run a political action committee to solicit contributions for a candidate or contribute to such a committee. It can, however – on its own and without coordinating with a candidate – “spend as much as it likes advocating on behalf of” a candidate, as long as it’s done independent from the campaign.

The SJC even cites reasoning the much-maligned Citizens United decision in 2010 from the U.S. Supreme Court that reaffirmed distinctions between independent expenditures and campaign contributions, saying the latter presented “a special risk of quid pro quo corruption because, unlike independent expenditures, they are coordinated with candidates.”

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