Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont, 539 U.S. 146, 4 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 146 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

Justice Souter delivered the opinion of the Court.

Since 1907, federal law has barred corporations from contributing directly to candidates for federal office. We hold that applying the prohibition to nonprofit advocacy corporations is consistent with the First Amendment.


The current statute makes it "unlawful . . . for any corporation whatever . . . to make a contribution or expenditure in connection with" certain federal elections, 90 Stat. 490, as renumbered and amended, 2 U. S. C. 441b(a), "contribution or expenditure" each being defined to include "anything of value," 441b(b)(2). The prohibition does not, however, forbid "the establishment, administration, and solicitation of contributions to a separate segregated fund to be utilized for political purposes." 441b(b)(2)(C); see 431(4)(B). Such a PAC (so called after the political action committee that runs it) may be wholly controlled by the sponsoring corporation, whose employees and stockholders or members generally may be solicited for contributions. See 441b(b)(4)(B)-(C); Federal Election Comm'n v. National Right to Work Comm., 459 U. S. 197, 200, n. 4 (1982). While federal law requires PACs to register and disclose their activities, 432-434; see Federal Election Comm'n v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Inc., 479 U. S. 238, 253-254 (1986), the law leaves them free to make contributions as well as other expenditures in connection with federal elections, 441b(b)(2)(C).

Respondents are a corporation known as North Carolina Right to Life, Inc., three of its officers, and a North Carolina voter (here, together, NCRL), who have sued the Federal Election Commission, the independent agency set up to "administer, seek to obtain compliance with, and formulate policy with respect to" the federal electoral laws. 437c


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