WASHINGTON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - The Supreme Court
rejected on Monday a free-speech challenge to the longtime ban
on campaign contributions by foreign citizens who temporarily
live and work in the United States.
The justices affirmed a ruling by a three-judge federal
panel that upheld the ban adopted by Congress to keep foreigners
from financially influencing U.S. elections.
The court's last federal campaign finance law ruling was in
January 2010, when it gave corporations the free-speech right to
spend freely to support or oppose candidates.
President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats in Congress
criticized that ruling while Republicans praised it.
The new challenge was brought by two foreign nationals who
temporarily live in the United States and want to contribute
money to certain political candidates. One wanted to support
Obama's 2012 re-election bid.
They said in their lawsuit that the law at issue violated
constitutional free-speech rights under the First Amendment.
They argued that the law unconstitutionally restricted their
right to contribute to candidates or national political parties,
to finance campaign advocacy and to make independent
expenditures advocating Obama's re-election.
In appealing to the Supreme Court, their attorney, Michael
Carvin, said the three-judge panel's ruling sets a "dangerous
precedent on campaign finance regulation, the First Amendment
and the constitutional rights of resident aliens."
The case involved Benjamin Bluman, a Canadian citizen who
attended Harvard Law School and now works as an attorney for a
New York law firm. He has lived in the United States since late
2009 and can remain in the country until November 2012.
In addition to seeking to make campaign contributions,
Bluman wanted to spend money to express his political views,
seeking to print flyers that support Obama's re-election and to
distribute them in Central Park.
The case also involved Dr. Asenath Steiman, a dual citizen
of Canada and Israel who is completing her medical residency at
Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.
She has lived in the United States since June 2009 and can
remain in the country at least until June of next year.
Steiman wanted to donate to the Club for Growth, a
politically conservative organization that advocates lower
taxes, limited government, less government spending and economic
liberty. It backs candidates who have these views.
The U.S. Justice Department said Congress adopted and then
amended the law over the past 50 years in response to specific
incidents of foreign interests seeking to spend money to sway
American elections and government decisions.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli told the Supreme Court
that invalidating the ban would allow millions of foreign
nationals in the United States to spend unlimited amounts on
election advocacy and contribute money directly to candidates,
even at the behest of hostile foreign governments.
The Supreme Court in a one-line summary disposition of the
case affirmed the lower court's ruling.
The Supreme Court case is Bluman v. Federal Election
Commission, No. 11-275.
For Bluman: Michael Carvin of Jones Day.
For Federal Election Commission: Donald Verrilli Jr,
Solicitor General of the United States.
(Reporting By James Vicini)
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