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Washington Post: Citizens United aftershocks

August 25, 2010- What are the consequences of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision allowing corporations "unlimited spending in pursuit of political ends"? The world of campaign finance is new, confusing -- and very alarming.

Corporate groups are already using the ruling to raise lots of cash. Consider the recent work of a consortium of coal companies in West Virginia and Kentucky, including Massey Energy -- owner of the Upper Big Branch Mine where 29 miners were killed in April -- which is attempting to target "anti-coal" Democrats this fall.

In a letter to various coal concerns, Roger Nicholson, senior vice president and general counsel at International Coal Group, said, "With the recent Supreme Court ruling, we are in a position to be able to take corporate positions that were not previously available in allowing our voices to be heard. A number of coal industry representatives recently have been considering developing a 527 entity with the purpose of attempting to defeat anti-coal incumbents in select races, as well as elect pro-coal candidates running for certain open seats. We're requesting your consideration as to whether your company would be willing to meet to discuss a significant commitment to such an effort."

Among the interesting things about this is that 527 groups were relatively free to accept and spend cash even before Citizens United, but -- whether by confusion about the law, strategy among corporate fundraisers or both -- the decision might catalyze all manner of new corporate spending, anyway. Of course, 527's face looser rules, too. "As a result of Citizens United, 527's can now use corporate money to run TV ads within 60 days of the election, and can say anything they want about the candidate," says Joseph Sandler, former general counsel of the Democratic National Committee. "That's a big difference."



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