Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont, 539 U.S. 146 (2003)

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146

OCTOBER TERM, 2002

Syllabus

FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION v. BEAUMONT et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fourth circuit

No. 02-403. Argued March 25, 2003—Decided June 16, 2003

A corporation is prohibited from making "a contribution or expenditure in connection with" certain federal elections, 2 U. S. C. 441b(a), but not from establishing, administering, and soliciting contributions to a separate fund to be used for political purposes, 441b(b)(2)(C). Such a PAC (so called after the political action committee that runs it) is free to make contributions and other expenditures in connection with federal elections. Respondents, a nonprofit advocacy corporation known as North Carolina Right to Life, Inc., and others (collectively NCRL), sued petitioner Federal Election Commission (FEC), challenging the constitutionality of 441b and its implementing regulations as applied to NCRL. As relevant here, the District Court granted NCRL summary judgment as to the ban on direct contributions, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed.

Held: Applying the direct contribution prohibition to nonprofit advocacy corporations is consistent with the First Amendment. Pp. 152-163.

(a) An attack on the federal prohibition of direct corporate political contributions goes against the current of a century of congressional efforts to curb corporations' potentially deleterious influences on federal elections. Since 1907, federal law has barred such direct corporate contributions. Much of the subsequent congressional attention to corporate political activity has been meant to strengthen the original, core prohibition on such contributions. Federal Election Comm'n v. National Right to Work Comm., 459 U. S. 197. As in 1907, current law focuses on the corporate structure's special characteristics that threaten the integrity of the political process. Id., at 209. In barring corporate earnings from turning into political "war chests," the ban was and is intended to "preven[t] corruption or the appearance of corruption." Federal Election Comm'n v. National Conservative Political Action Comm., 470 U. S. 480, 496-497. The ban also protects individuals who have paid money into a corporation or union for other purposes from having their money used to support political candidates to whom they may be opposed, National Right to Work, supra, at 208, and hedges

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