The New York Times Still Doesn't Understand Citizens United

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Complicated and confusing, campaign finance reform is apparently beyond the ken of New York Times. In a front page story on Sheldon's Adelson's $5 million contribution to a pro-Gingrich PAC, the Times flatly misstates the meaning and effect of the Citizen's United decision, once again. Adelson's donation "underscores how the 2010 landmark Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance has made it possible for a wealthy individual to influence an election," the Times wrongly declares. In fact, it has long been possible for wealthy individuals "to influence an election." Citizen's United enabled corporations to use general treasury funds for independent political expenditures; it did not expand or address the individual rights of the rich to support independent groups.

This is not a minor, inconsequential mistake. It perpetuates the misconception of Citizens United as the root of all campaign finance evils; it exacerbates the difficulties of conducting informed, honest debates about the complex practical and legal problems alleviated or exacerbated by reforms. And it makes you wonder what other fictions the Times confuses with facts. 

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Wendy Kaminer is an author, lawyer, and civil libertarian. She is the author of I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional, and a past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. More

Wendy Kaminer is a lawyer and social critic who has been a contributing editor of The Atlantic since 1991. She writes about law, liberty, feminism, religion and popular culture and has written eight books, including Worst InstinctsFree for All; Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials; and I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional. Kaminer worked as a staff attorney in the New York Legal Aid Society and in the New York City Mayor's Office and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993. She is a renowned contrarian who has tackled the issues of censorship and pornography, feminism, pop psychology, gender roles and identities, crime and the criminal-justice system, and gun control. Her articles and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The American Prospect, Dissent, The Nation, The Wilson Quarterly, Free Inquiry, and spiked-online.com. Her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio. She serves on the board of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the advisory boards of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Secular Coalition for America, and is a member of the Massachusetts State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

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