Commentary: Expect more political attack ads thanks to Supreme Court's ruling

By overturning a longstanding precedent banning corporate spending on campaigns, the U.S. Supreme Court almost surely will affect the race for U.S. Senate and congressional campaigns across the state and nation.

The 5-4 majority made up of conservative justices took a decidedly activist stand, applying the same First Amendment rights that individuals enjoy to corporations and, by extension, labor unions.

Voters will see the result – and it may not be pretty. There will be yet more attack ads, Internet assaults and mailers to clutter inboxes and airtime leading to Election Day.

The justices have been whittling away at restrictions on corporate and union financing of presidential and congressional elections since 1976. But Thursday's ruling makes clear that corporations (and unions) can directly spend money on ads urging the victory or defeat of candidates.

Such interests have had to use political action committees (PACs) to get around previous restrictions. No more. The majority in the Citizens United v. FEC decision called PACs "burdensome alternatives" in part because they are limited to voluntary contributions from shareholders, employees or union members. So the five justices swept the PAC requirement away.

Previous decisions had opened the door to "issue ads" directly from corporate and union treasuries. An example is the "Americans for Responsible Health Care" ads that appeared Thursday in newspapers in five states (including The Bee), after a TV ad campaign in Massachusetts.

Previously, such ads couldn't expressly urge the victory or defeat of a particular candidate. With the court's ruling, that has now changed.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.sacbee.com.