This blog is a forum for discussing Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and the people it affects. The discussion also featured a panel of speakers and a dialogue on April 11 in Jamaica Plain. Questions/comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An editorial in today’s New York Times (published online yesterday) criticizes a super PAC whose goal it is not to advance a political agenda but to challenge incumbents. It makes some good points but there is one line in its conclusion on super PACs generally that deserves further exploration: “Attack ads, which are their stock in trade, are tainting the political process and turning off many voters.”
While John McCain may agree with this statement, it would nice if that belief could be corroborated with more than just intuition. As Nick Gillespie of Reason has argued, despite McCain’s objection to the tone, negative ads actually contain more information for voters than positive ads. And it’s not just a libertarian magazine that sees the benefit. This week, Paul Begala, Democratic commentator and now adviser to Obama’s super PAC, published a piece in Newsweekpraising negative ads because he finds them more engaging.
Yesterday, on the March 18th episode of NBC’s Meet the Press program, Republican Senator from Arizona, and former Republican presidential nominee, John McCain appeared as host David Gregory’s featured guest. When questioned on the current Republican presidential primary process, the Senator, a ranking member of the Armed Services Committee and widely respected by Republican and Democratic Congressmen alike, took the opportunity to blast the United States Supreme Court over its decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission while lamenting the prominent role Super PACs have come to play in the American political process.
Senator McCain, who has endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the Republican primary race, responded to a question asking why Mr. Romney had yet to seal the deal on obtaining his party’s nomination to run against President Barack Obama in the upcoming election. Senator McCain placed a large amount of the blame on the emergence of Super PACs stating, “Super PACs have played a key role, unfortunately in my view, because most of them are negative ads, they’ve driven up the unfavorables of all the candidates and made it much more difficult frankly to win the election in November.”
McCain described this current election season as the “nastiest” he has ever witnessed and placed the blame squarely on the presence of Super PACs. “When you have a Las Vegas Casino mogul, by the way who gets part of his money from Macau, pouring 20 million dollars into one campaign and most of those are negatives ads, obviously those drive up people’s unfavorable” noted McCain.
However, the Senator did not stop there and proceeded to explicitly attack the Supreme Court, declaring the election climate is, “a result of the worst decision the United States Supreme Court has made in many years - the Citizens United decision – where out of naivete and sheer ignorance, the majority of the Supreme Court just…released all money, now, there will be scandals David, there will be scandals and then maybe we will reform again.”