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Indiana Supreme Court set to answer question about corporations' campaign contribution limits

The interior of the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom. The justices seats are behind a long desk, with each justice's name on a plaque in front of their seats.
Brandon Smith
/
IPB News
The Indiana Supreme Court will answer a question posed to it by a federal appeals court about the state's campaign contribution limits on corporations.

A federal appeals court wants the Indiana Supreme Court’s help with a question about Indiana law: Is there a limit on how much money corporations can donate to political action committees?

That’s the subject of Thursday’s state Supreme Court hearing.

Indiana Right To Life’s political action committee (PAC) and a broadcasting company, Sarkes Tarzian Inc., sued the state in federal court nearly two years ago. Tarzian wanted to donate $10,000 to the PAC but argued that Indiana law limits contributions from corporations to PACs for independent expenditures, which are spent without coordinating with candidates and political parties.

But the state says its limits don’t extend to PACs making independent expenditures. And it says it has never and will never enforce such a limit.

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A federal judge agreed with the state and dismissed the lawsuit. That was appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals — and judges there want the Indiana Supreme Court’s guidance on the state’s limits on campaign contributions.

The federal lawsuit won’t proceed until Indiana’s justices provide an answer.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.