Don't blame big election spending on 'Citizens United'

Thursday, October 7, 2010; A26

The Post suggested that increases in anonymous political spending are related to the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC ["Interest-group spending for midterm up fivefold from 2006," front page, Oct. 4]. But the increase in spending on this election has little to do with that ruling.

Nonprofit corporations have been allowed to spend money in elections since 1986, and they had to disclose only contributions that were "earmarked" for political advertising. The only thing Citizens United changed: Corporations and unions are now allowed to give money to these nonprofits. But this is a little change, because corporations and unions were already permitted to anonymously fund issue ads discussing political candidates.

Those looking for an explanation for the increased spending on this election should focus on congressional unpopularity, not Citizens United. And those who distrust anonymous political ads should do what they have always been permitted to do: Ignore them.

Paul Sherman, Arlington

The writer is a staff attorney at the Institute for Justice, which handles campaign finance cases.

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