Last Friday in a precedential opinion, the Sixth Circuit struck down an Ohio pay-to-play law that made it a crime for Attorney-General or county-prosecutor candidates to accept campaign contributions from Medicaid providers or any person with an ownership interest in a Medicaid provider on the theory that the successful candidates might be reluctant to prosecute their own supporters. Physicians brought the legal challenge after Attorney General Richard Cordray’s 2010 reelection campaign rejected their contributions. After disposing of procedural matters, the court knocked down the law in less than three pages. The bottom line? States must make a considerable factual showing that an outright, undifferentiated contribution ban will prevent corruption, and in fact will do so in a targeted manner.
Interestingly, the Sixth Circuit relied on the Second Circuit’s decision in Green Party of Connecticut v. Garfield, a much broader pay-to-play decision that upheld the Connecticut campaign contribution ban for government contractors. Blanket contribution bans, including those on corporate and foreign contributions, are increasingly the subject of litigation—particularly since Citizens United has spurred new challenges of all types. As the after-effects of Citizens United on independent expenditures begin to stabilize somewhat, look for battles over contribution bans and pay-to-play laws to heat up even more in the next chapter of campaign finance lawsuits.