This week, Iowa Right to Life Committee, Inc. ("IRTL") asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review its challenge to Iowa’s ban on political contributions by corporations (and other business entities), but not labor unions.
IRTL is a nonprofit ideological corporation. In 2010, it wanted to contribute $100 to Brenna Findley, candidate for Iowa Attorney General, but it was prohibited by Iowa’s ban.
IRTL challenges the ban for violating (1) the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection guarantee and (2) the First Amendment’s protection of free speech and association.
Regarding equal protection, IRTL argues that, even if Iowa might be able to ban contributions by both corporations and labor unions, it cannot allow one to contribute but not the other. In Dallman v. Ritter (2010), the Colorado Supreme Court held equal protection barred a state from allowing corporate, but not union, contributions. That analysis applied here would require Iowa to allow corporate contributions since it allows union contributions.
Regarding the First Amendment claim, the Supreme Court held in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) that the First Amendment prohibits treating incorporated associations differently from other associations. And it held that corporations cannot be required to give up their constitutional rights to adopt corporate form. This was because the Court rejected the idea that corporate participation distorts politics (the sole justification for restricting corporate political participation in a case the Court overruled). Under Citizens United’s analysis, corporations should be allowed to make contributions, subject to contribution limits like any other entity.
James Bopp, Jr., lead attorney for IRTL comments: "After Citizens United, there is no justification for banning corporate political contributions because corporations may not be treated differently from other entities. And this is doubly true where Iowa allows labor union contributions, but not corporate contributions. Iowa’s ban is unconstitutional for both reasons."
The petition asking the Court to accept the case is available at www.jamesmadisoncenter.org, (under "cases" then "IRTL v. Tooker").