During the Republican primaries, we saw the effect of Citizens United on our politics: independent unlimited money used to attack candidates. The 2009 Supreme Court decision essentially ended campaign finance limits by ruling that contributions (in the form of money) were protected speech.I have always been curious about how right-to-life advocates, especially attorney James Bopp became involved; how Chief Justice John Roberts, a vowed conservative, presided over the thorough dismantling of a century of precedent; and why the Obama Administration did such a poor job of defending McCain-Feingold (the legislation under immediate scrutiny), and the many laws restraining campaign contributions.Now I know. Jeffrey Toobin (New Yorker, May 21) gives a detailed account of how Chief Justice Roberts engineered the arguments and the decision to favor unlimited money. Toobin's assessment: "The Roberts Court, it appears, will guarantee moneyed interests the freedom to raise and spend any amount, from any source, at any time, in order to win elections."That outcome was manifest in a New York Times story today describing an anti-Obama campaign strategy on offer from political consultants that took the low, low road in racist politicking. The sponsor has repudiated the strategy. And so has the Romney campaign.
Margaret O’Brien Steinfels is a former editor of Commonweal.