Lyle Denniston’s Odd Description of McCutcheon and Citizens United

April 2nd, 2014

I usually rely on SCOTUSBlog for fair and accurate reporting, but this post of McCutcheon by Lyle Denniston is odd. Two statements jump out at me.

First, the opening sentence:

The Supreme Court pressed ahead on Wednesday with the majority’s constitutional view that more money flowing into politics is a good thing — even if much of it comes from rich donors.

Huh. Where does he get this from? The Majority opinion is premised on the fact that the law unduly limits speech, and that the aggregate caps do not lead to quid-pro-quo corruption. This does not suggest that five justices of the Supreme Court hold the “constitutional view that more money flowing into politics is a good thing.” This very well may be the consequence of today’s opinion, but to ascribe that as the majority’s motivation is uncharitable at best.

Second, this characterization of Citizens United reads like a DNC talking point:

The decision was not as sweeping as the Court’s ruling four years ago, removing all restrictions on what corporations and labor unions can spend of their own money in federal campaigns (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission), which has led to billions of dollars spent on politics through financing that is supposed to be independent of candidates or parties.

“All restrictions”? Certainly Lyle knows better than that. Citizens United itself dealt with a fairly discrete issue of corporate spending on certain types of advertisements in the time leading up to an election. Follow-up cases like Speech Now have struck down other restrictions. But Citizens United left in place countless other restrictions on how corporations can spend their money. Namely, as McCutcheon notes, corporations still can’t contribute directly to candidates.

This reporting should be corrected.