The Supreme Court does not often become a foil for late-night television comedians, and the nation’s complicated campaign finance laws are an unlikely source for comedy. But there was Stephen Colbert on a recent episode of The Colbert Report opening with a mini-seminar. “Folks, it seems like these days, everyone is talking about super PACs, which, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, can collect and spend unlimited money on political advertising,” Colbert told his viewers, some of whom had already contributed to his own super PAC creation: Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.
Colbert’s super PAC (which has raised more than $1 million) is not intended to have much impact on the 2012 presidential election, and his understanding of recent Supreme Court precedent may lack nuance. Still, Colbert’s matter-of-fact invocation of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission when discussing the independent campaign spending organizations known as super PACs is an indication of how the case has become embedded in the national conversation during this election season.
It might seem that a Supreme Court decision that drew an immediate and unprecedented rebuke from the president in his State of the Union address could not become more controversial with the passage of time. But that is exactly what has happened to Citizens United, the Court’s 5-to-4 ruling in 2010 that allowed unlimited corporate and union spending in candidate elections. The 2012 presidential campaign is unfolding in a never-before-seen wave of spending from wealthy donors and super PACs functioning as shadow fundraising arms of the candidates. Citizens United, meanwhile, has become—rightly or wrongly—shorthand for the ills that campaign finance reformers say are fundamentally changing presidential politics.
Full Article: Super PAC Mania | Columbia Law School Magazine.