A Year Later, Liberals Still Pushing Falsehoods on 'Citizens United'

February 9th, 2011 1:24 PM

 For the past year, the left has cried foul at the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United vs. FEC, which overturned laws prohibiting corporations and unions from broadcast election-related communications within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary. More than a year after the court handed down its decision, misinformation still pervades liberal condemnations of the ruling.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the far-left magazine The Nation, pushed a near-comical distortion of the truth in a recent column in the Washington Post. She brazenly declared former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold a "victim of Citizens United spending," and linked to an interview with Feingold at The Nation.

Just one problem: in that interview, Feingold explicitly denied that campaign spending played any role in his defeat. Does vanden Heuvel even read the items she offers as evidence - or her own magazine?

Here's what Feingold told The Nation:

Money in politics is a huge issue. But let's be clear: I certainly wasn't underfunded [in 2010]. I don't think another $100 million would have changed the outcome of my race. I don't think even $100 million would have mattered, because of the mindset that had developed, because of the desire on the part of a lot of voters to send that message. I think it's important to make this point, because I'm not here to say that I was a victim in particular of that. I think we have to see the whole money-in-politics issue in a broader context.

No, Russ Feingold was most certainly not a "victim of Citizens United spending," as he readily admits. Amazingly, vanden Heuvel linked to a piece that completely contradicted the claim she was trying to make with respect to Feingold.

Wendy Kaminer wrote at the Atlantic on Tuesday:

It takes chutzpah, shamelessness, or negligence to cite as support for a factual assertion an authoritative statement that directly contradicts it. Maybe vanden Heuvel didn't read the interview in her own magazine; maybe she relies on incompetent research assistance; maybe she assumes that her readers don't bother checking links and accept her claims at face value; maybe, like the right wing propagandists The Nation deplores, she's decided that facts don't matter. Whatever. I like to think they matter to the Washington Post, so, naively perhaps, I emailed a request for a correction. I received no substantive response (only an automated message acknowledging receipt). Vanden Heuvel's disingenuous column still appears uncorrected.

Kaminer goes on to detail factual inaccuracies pushed at the New York Times in its crusade against the Citizens United ruling. The paper's editorial board claimed that the ruling had overturned the 1907 Tillman Act (one hundred years of precedent, as the Times liked to claim), allowing corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to political candidates.

In fact, contrary to the Times's claims, the decision only affected independent expenditures by corporations, non-profits, and unions. It had no bearing on direct campaign contributions, and did not affect the Tillman Act. Follow the link to Kaminer's piece for the Times's amazingly arrogant and specious self-defense.

The Washington Post has also made the false assertion that the Citizens United opened the floodgates of contributions directly to political campaigns. Reporting on its own poll last February, the Post claimed the court's decision "allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on political campaigns." The poll itself used similarly misleading language.

The misinformation has not been confined to newspapers, either. MSNBC talker Ed Schultz has insisted on multiple occasions - in amazing ignorance of facts and basic common sense - that corporations spent one thousand times as much money on the 2010 elections as did labor unions (the top spender in 2010 was the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, a public sector union).

Why is there so much misinformation coming from the left in discussions of the Citizens United ruling? Do liberals not understand it? Do they think the facts are irrelevant - as the Times's editorial page editor suggested (see Kaminer's piece)? Or are they just discarded where they impede the chosen narrative?