Democrats’ Criticism of Citizens United Is Wrong

Letter to the editor, February 10, 2016.

In their victory speeches(1) on Tuesday night after the New Hampshire Primary results were certain (projecting Sen. Sanders at 60% and Sec. Hilary Clinton at 40%), both Sanders and Clinton criticized the current law on campaign financing, as established by the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC.(2) Both Sanders and Clinton are dead wrong in their criticism of the Citizens United ruling. I will explain why.

The Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United corrected a serious and fundamental flaw in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA). That flaw is that one of its provisions (2 U.S.C. Sec. 441b) prohibited all corporations except public media corporations from making certain political communications within 30 days of a primary election and within 60 days of a general election. This provision of the BCRA was constitutionally flawed because it discriminated against speech based solely upon who the speaker was. The Supreme Court corectly held that there is no justifiable reason for this disparate treatment.

Regardless of how one feels about the influence of money in elections, it is manifestly unfair to give the well-funded media corporations unfettered freedom to print and broadcast their opinions, their interpretations, and their misrepresentations about candidates and issues and to prohibit any other corporations from making such communications. If the First Amendment means anything, it means that speech cannot be prohibited based solely upon who the speaker is.

1. Even though Secretary Clinton was soundly defeated in this primary election, her speech was nevertheless a “victory” speech, as she thanked her supporters and anticipated her eventual victory of attaining the Democratic Nomination.

2. Secretary Clinton specifically mentioned this case and the fact that the case dealt with a political ad that specifically targeted her. Senator Sanders did not specifically mention the Citizens United case, but he criticized PACs for spending money to influence elections.

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