D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan has signed off on the legal reasoning behind a ballot initiative that seeks to ban corporate contributions to District political campaigns.
"The proposed measure is a proper subject for an initiative under District law," Nathan wrote in a letter to D.C.'s elections board, adding that previous Supreme Court opinions indicate the proposal is within the scope of the Constitution.
A band of D.C. political activists is seeking a citywide vote on the proposal to ban all corporate giving to campaigns, transition and inaugration committees, legal defense groups and constituent services funds. If approved, the ban would more closely align D.C. with federal campaign finance rules and those in nearly two dozen states.
The proper place of corporate dollars in politics has been a legal flashpoint since 2010. That year, the Supreme Court ruled that, under the First Amendment, companies and individuals alike could engage in political speech.
In his letter, Nathan said that ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, often derided by President Obama, did not strike down a 2003 Supreme Court opinion that a ban on direct corporate contributions was constitutional.
Even with Nathan's approval, which the attorney general said was limited to the legal merits of the proposal and didn't reflect his personal opinion on the measure, organizers have a long way to go before they can even get District residents to vote on the matter.
To get the proposal before voters in November, organizers will have to collect signatures from 5 percent of D.C.'s registered voters within 180 days of the elections board approving the activists' request for petitions.