Former Federal Elections Commission Chairman (and Reason contributor/serial interview subject) Bradley A. Smith has a good piece over at The American Spectator discussing the both the momentousness and lack thereof in the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC case. Here's an excerpt that touches on the truthiness of President Barack Obama's criticism of the decision:
Citizens United is at once both a potential game-changer and a decision whose "radicalism" has been wildly overstated. Why overstated? Well, to start, one would never guess from the left's hysteria that even prior to Citizens United, 28 states, representing roughly 60 percent of the U.S. population, already allowed corporations and unions to make expenditures promoting or opposing candidates for office in state elections; in 26 states, such corporate and union expenditures were unlimited. Moreover, while the first bans on corporate spending were enacted more than a century ago, prior to the 1990 Austin decision, the Supreme Court had never upheld a ban, or even a limitation, on independent expenditures supporting or opposing a political candidate. It was the misleading contention that the decision overturned "100 years of law and precedent," that appears to have evoked Justice Alito's "not true" response to the president's State of the Union comments.
The president also stated, again misleadingly, that the decision would open the door for foreign corporations to spend unlimited sums in American elections. In fact, another provision of federal law, not at issue in the case, already prohibits any foreign national, including foreign corporations, from spending money in any federal campaign. FEC regulations, which have the force of law, further prohibit any foreign national from playing any role in the political spending decisions of any U.S. corporation, political action committee, or association. And the Court specifically stated that Citizens United was not addressing these laws at all. So while some states may tweak their state rules in the wake of Citizens United to limit the ability of U.S. incorporated and head-quartered subsidiaries of foreign corporations to spend money in campaigns, the "foreign corporation" bogeyman is little more than leftist demagoguery.
Jacob Sullum wrote about Obama's demagoguery on this issue last week. Watch Smith talk to Reason.TV about campaign finance restrictions in 2008 below: