Sen. John McCain slammed the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision as “incredibly naïve” on Tuesday, and predicted there would be “huge scandals” in its wake. The Arizona Republican was co-author with then-colleague Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., of the last major attempt by government to reform campaign finance laws in 2002. He was participating in a panel discussion on the decision at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The law prohibited corporations and unions from bankrolling issue ads that mention a candidate within the final weeks before an election. But under the contentious Citizens United ruling, corporations and unions were freed not only to fund issue ads that mention a candidate but to also make so-called “independent expenditures” that urge people to vote for or vote against candidates. Many worry this change will increase the potential for corruption and unseemly alliances between lawmakers and special interests.
The ruling has given rise to independent expenditure groups called “super PACs,” which can accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, unions and trade groups. They may not donate money to candidates’ campaigns nor coordinate with candidates about their expenditures. Super PACs have collectively raised more than $230 million since their creation in 2010, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.