For those who wondered what campaigns would look like in a post-Citizens United world, we may have our answer in a horribly offensive ad a group has produced to smear and insult California Democratic congressional candidate Janice Hahn.
Hahn, who is running against GOP contender Craig Huey for the seat vacated by former Rep. Jane Harmon, is the target of a Web ad so stunningly sexist and racist that it verges on pornography. Hahn has advocated a program under which reformed gang members try to discourage others from joining gangs, or encourage current members to leave. The ad, produced by a group calling itself "Right Turn USA," depicts two African-American men, carrying guns ad rapping "give us your cash, b---h." A pole dancer in the ad shakes her backside directly into the camera. At the end, when the hired dancer turns around, Hahn’s face is plastered on the head of the actress. [Read the U.S. News debate: Is the Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision Hurting Democracy?]
The spot finishes with this notification: "Definitely not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. So suck it, McCain-Feingold."
The closing words are almost as offensive as the ad itself. The ad—which now will surely get more attention than if its adolescent-minded producers had simply offered it up on YouTube—was not remotely attached to the Huey campaign, which has denounced it. But the ad shows how little control candidates have over the campaign media produced, even advertising meant to advance those candidates’ chances. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Democrats and Republicans.]
In Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled last year that corporations—both for-profit and nonprofit—and labor unions could fund independent broadcasts that advanced or attacked a political candidacy. The free speech element of the ruling is apparent, but in practice, the ruling means candidates will have no control over what is shown to voters, even on their behalf. More ads such as the offensive anti-Hahn ad are sure to come.