Dan Abrams is usually a pretty good source if you’re a non-lawyer trying to understand the Supreme Court’s rulings. But not today.
Abrams attacks the media for mischaracterizing the decision in the oft-discussed Citizens United, which most media cite as the impetus for the mounds and mounds of cash funneled through SuperPACs this election. Abrams claims that this isn’t true and that all the decision did was allow corporations and unions to contribute to these groups while individuals could always contribute unlimited funds to independent groups (the “corporations are people” logic).
This is one holding of the case, but the problem is that Abrams overlooks the second major holding, which lifted the existing ban preventing these groups from airing commercials attacking candidates within 60 days of a general election and within 30 days of a primary. While he may be technically correct that Shelly Adelson could have contributed unlimited cash to Rick Tyler’s Newt-backing SuperPAC even before this decision, that SuperPAC would not have been allowed to run attack ads against Romney within a month of any of these contests — a restriction that rendered these groups much less potent than they are now.
He may be right that Citizens United did not open the door for big donors, but it is disingenuous to suggest that the media is wrong to say that Citizens United is responsible for the attack ad carpet bombing we’ve seen this year.