The Roberts Court’s Legacy: Interest Group Spending Is Up and Anonymous

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Photo: Pete Souza/The White House

The Supreme Court is back in session today. Where the Warren court sought to uphold individual rights and the Rehnquist court favored states' rights, "the Roberts court has championed corporations," says the Times. And based on the cases on this term's docket, it's a trend that's expected to continue. Thus far, "the most far-reaching example of the Roberts court's pro-business bias" is the 5-to-4 vote in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, where the court went beyond what the parties even argued to alter constitutional law, bestowing both corporations and labor unions with the unlimited right to funnel money into politics. The results of that decision are already evident as the Washington Post reports that spending by interest groups is up five-fold to $80 million, compared to the same time period during the 2006 midterms. The difference is that back then 90 percent of the money came with donor identities, and this year fewer than half the donors revealed themselves.

A little known group from Iowa called the American Future Fund is one of the biggest spenders nationwide, channeling $7 million into Republican campaigns. On the group's FEC filings, the donors for the ad campaigns are not disclosed. In a low-key race in Iowa, the group announced it would donate up to $800,000 against Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley. Its first ad: a commercial alleging that Braley chose the wrong side on one of the most vital issues affecting Iowans: the Ground Zero mosque. Braley says he never supported construction of the cultural center, calling it a zoning issue for New Yorkers to decide.

The ad was part of a national campaign of similar mosque-themed spots. It's all the brainchild of a strategist named Larry McCarthy, who made his name creating the racially inflammatory "Willie Horton" commercials credited with losing Michael Dukakis the election in 1988. Great decision, Roberts court. Why would anyone want to know who's financing this agenda?

First Monday [NYT]
Interest-group spending for midterm up fivefold from 2006 [WP]