UPDATES & ANALYSIS

4.07

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Iowa’s Corporate Contribution Ban To Survive, For Now

by Colin Smith | April 7, 2014

By Colin Smith

Iowa Right to Life v. Tooker, an Iowa-based campaign finance case that has been heavily covered by On Brief (see here, here, here, and here) had its cert. petition challenging Iowa’s corporate political contribution ban denied by the U.S. Supreme Court this morning.  As you may recall, the Tooker case was a multifaceted legal challenge to various parts of Iowa’s state campaign finance statute.  Among the issues raised by the plaintiff were: (1) whether Iowa’s political disclosure laws were overly burdensome, (2) whether Iowa could constitutionally prohibit corporations from contributing to candidates while simultaneously allowing unions to do so, and (3) whether Iowa’s requirement that a corporation’s board of directors approve, ahead of time, any corporate political independent expenditure was constitutional.

After having prevailed in part before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals when a three-judge panel declared a portion of Iowa’s independent expenditure reporting rules unconstitutional (at least as applied to politically active nonprofits), the plaintiff in Tooker asked the United States Supreme Court to determine whether or not Iowa’s law permitting union contributions, but prohibiting corporate contributions, was constitutional.

There had been some interesting speculation that the High Court might decide to hear the plaintiff’s arguments regarding the constitutionality of Iowa corporate contribution law on the merits, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court just handed down another blockbuster election law case this month.  But, unfortunately for the plaintiffs, the Court turned down their petition.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the Tooker challenge to Iowa’s corporate contribution ban effectively means that Iowa’s law will remain in place for now, although the Court’s order today does not necessarily foreclose the possibility that another enterprising plaintiff might try another challenge in the future.

As for the Tooker case, it technically is not over yet.   The plaintiff’s claims against the constitutionality of Iowa’s corporate board of director approval law are still pending before the district court on remand from the Eighth Circuit. On Brief will have more coverage of the remainder of the Tooker case as it develops.

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