The New York Times Still Doesn't Understand Citizens United

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.

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