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State Supreme Court says Indiana law bans corporate contributions to super PACs

The interior of the Indiana Supreme Court chamber. The justices names are on five plaques along a long desk, with a chair behind each plaque.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
The Indiana Supreme Court answered a question about state election law posed to it by the federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals as part of an ongoing lawsuit.

The Indiana Supreme Court said state law bans corporate contributions to independent political action committees, or super PACs — even as the state acknowledges such a ban would be unconstitutional.

The state court answered a question posed by a federal appeals court as part of an ongoing lawsuit.

Super PACs are groups that spend money on political races without coordinating with candidates or political parties. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that limiting corporate contributions to super PACs is unconstitutional.

But that’s exactly what Indiana Right To Life’s super PAC said Indiana law does. It wanted to accept a $10,000 contribution from a local media company, Sarkes Tarzian, Inc. No one told the Indiana Right To Life PAC it couldn’t accept the money — and the state has said it never would have stopped the transaction — but the PAC sued in federal court anyway.

READ MORE: 'Why are we here?': Indiana Supreme Court examines potential limits on contributions to super PACs

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said, to make a ruling, it wanted the Indiana Supreme Court to first weigh in on whether state law really does ban unlimited contributions to super PACs.

The state high court said it does. It said the law specifically lays out which groups corporations can give to, and at what limits. And because super PACs aren’t mentioned, the court said, corporations can’t give anything to them.

The court’s opinion acknowledged that both sides expect the federal court to stop the state from enforcing the ban — even as the state has said all along it never would.

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

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.