Another way to defang Citizens United?

No one I know – Republican, Democrat, Independent, etc. – likes the decision in the Citizens United case. Of course, none of us know any multi-billionaires.

The normal reactions we’ve heard to combatting this are either to hope that SCOTUS somehow reverses its decision (perhaps if new justices are appointed) or that  Senator Tom Udall’s proposed constitutional amendment will be ratified. The problem that plagues both of these is that we have to rely on certain chains of events happening and that we are looking at a minimum of eight years, in all likelihood, before either change would take place. That’s a lot of elections to give the so-called Super PACs time to change the United States into an out-and-out oligarchy.

However, I just thought of another way to defang (or, as I prefer to say, “spay”) the Super PACs. Some of you may be aware that political attacks made against candidates for public office are all but immune from libel law because, in the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, “restraint on political speech, no matter how [vile] the speech may be, would have a chilling effect on public discourse.” You also may be aware that the most toxic political ads are all coming from the Super PACs, largely so the official campaigns themselves can keep their hands clean.

Ah, but here’s the catch: the Super PACs are by law, limited to issues-based contributions! Now, we all know that they have crossed the line many times without even getting their wrists slapped, but if they present ads that are clearly OR implicitly false, knowingly false (or that any reasonable person could easily tell was false), and have malicious intent (which is the whole motivation for the toxic ads), they would have met the standards of libel.

In conclusion, it seems to me that the Super PACs are really vulnerable to a well-crafted lawsuit. Either the courts would rule that they do not enjoy immunity from libel laws, since they are not parts of the candidates’ campaigns, or that the courts will be forced to slam the door on any of the lies told in Super PAC ads about candidates since they are, by statute, limited ONLY to ads that deal with issues and not with people.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s