Supreme Court

Former FEC Chair Brad Smith on Obama's Citizen United "Demagoguery"


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.

Stay classy, POTUS

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:

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  1. Hey! No fair letting facts get in the way of statist rants!

  2. A government official contributes to Reason? What crazy world did I wake up to today? Shouldn’t we be running him out of town no matter how much we have in common? I mean, we do have our ideological *purity* to think about here.

  3. Former government official. Like former addicts, born-again’s, etc. they are often they are often the greatest critics of their own previous mindsets.

    1. In Smith’s case, he was a leading critic of campaign-finance restrictions before, during, and after his tenure on the SEC. Click on the “interview subject” link for examples from each period.

  4. The fact remains: The ruling against Citizens United was a blight on recent American history, and the ruling in favor of that group was only a good start in making up for the previous bad act.

  5. There’s no underestimating the power of the Liar Pulpit.

  6. This case is the best possible evidence for how the MSM misleads people.
    At bottom, it is a case where the little people were being prevented in expressing their opionion about a candidate for office. It is astounding that anyone could argue straight faced that the people in Citizens United could be PREVENTED from expressing their views about a candidate.
    But I guess no totalitarian state gets into power by advertizing itself as, “…the boot on the human face forever…”

  7. Damnit!! DAMNIT!!!!
    it should read “in Citizens United SHOULD be PREVENTED from…”

    I get all worked up and than mis-state myself…

  8. not at issue in the case, already prohibits any foreign national, including foreign corporations, from spending money in any federal campaign.

    What is preventing foreign companies and foreign governments from creating web sites and such endorsing candidates or attacking candidates?

  9. The reality is that Obama is not as bright as the Democratic Party and the MSM try to make him out to be. Plainly, he had no understanding of Citizens United v. FEC, which is why he said what he said.

  10. The real question is what is The Great Obama really worried about here? He has most of the fat cats on his side. Most business corporations would never overtly go against the party in power. The only thing I can think of is his extreme envirowacko agenda. Coal companies have every business reason to back the Republican parties to the hilt, and to spend a lot of money doing so.

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