TN attorney general: Campaign law probably unconstitutional

10:39 AM, Mar 13, 2010   |    comments
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Written by Nate Rau, The Tennessean

A current state law that bans donations to political campaigns by corporations would likely be ruled unconstitutional if challenged in court, according to a legal opinion released Friday by the Tennessee Attorney General's office.

The Attorney General ruling was requested by Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, who late last year filed a bill anticipating February's U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. That ruling said corporations could contribute to political campaigns.

"In light of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, concluding that there is no legitimate government interest that would justify a ban on independent corporate campaign expenditures, a court probably would hold (the Tennessee law) unconstitutional," according to the attorney general's opinion.

The Supreme Court decision, which overturned parts of a 63-year-old federal law, said corporate contributions had to be independent from the campaigns and fully disclosed.

The ruling also said contributions were subject to the same maximum caps as those for individuals.

Casada said Friday that he didn't know if he would try to push his bill this session or wait until next year.

With more difficult issues, like the ongoing state budget process, Casada said the general assembly might wait to tackle the issue.

"There is no rush on our part," Casada said. "If it's next year before I get around to it, then so be it. I think it is imperative that what the Supreme Court has ruled, we comply with. It's not like we can make our own rules."

The Supreme Court ruling has been criticized by many, including President Barack Obama in his state of the union speech last month, as opening up elections to being heavily influenced by corporate interests.

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