This week marks the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which struck down part of the 2002 McCain-Feingold election law. Never has the ruling been as salient as it is now in the national political discussion. The Occupy movement has taken aim at the decision, blaming it for allowing the “1 percent” to exercise unprecedented control over the political process. Meanwhile, the decision has been widely cited as paving the road for the super PACs that are dominating the Republican primary, now evenoutspending candidates’ official campaigns in South Carolina. All of which contributed to my interest in a letter sent to the New York Times this week by Floyd Abrams, a longtime First Amendment lawyer who represented Sen. Mitch McConnell in the Citizens United case and argued that part of the McCain-Feingold law was unconstitutional. Abrams has been involved in many landmark cases, notably representing the Times in the Pentagon Papers case in the early 1970s.
In his letter to the editor, Abrams scolded the paper for asserting in a story that a $5 million donation given by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson to a pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC (which used the money to attack Mitt Romney over his work at Bain) had been made possible by the Citizens United decision. Not so, argued Abrams, who believes that the effect of the ruling has been widely mischaracterized.
I spoke to Abrams today to get his take on Citizens United two years later. For an alternative view on the effects of the decision, check out these two articles by election law expert Rick Hasen. [UPDATE: And here is Hasen’s very interesting response to my interview with Abrams.]
Full Article: Is Citizens United just misunderstood? – Salon.com.