The American public has reacted to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and the ensuing flood of corporate money into elections with about the same enthusiasm they have to the candidacy of Mitt Romney or the failures of Barack Obama’s first term: That is, with a world-weary resignation, a sigh and a tapping of the metaphorical pack of cigarettes every Illinoisan, even a non-smoker, carries in his or her mind (the only enclosed space without a smoking ban).
It’s a raw deal, the American public thinks, taking a deep drag and exhaling like a silver screen starlet of the ’40s, but what are you ’gonna do about it?
The swiftly-flowing river of corporate money and the dominance of the “Super PAC” is one boon this loophole provides to a candidate’s campaign. The other less mentioned benefit is the plausible deniability it grants them in their campaigning habits, a situation that allows them both to Have attack ads, yet Have Not.
David Gill, the Bloomington physician neck-deep in his fourth bid for Congress, has made much of his campaign eschewing attack ads. In a strictly factual sense, Friends of David Gill has not issued an attack ad against his opponent, Republican Rodney Davis. Davis is an appointee to the GOP nomination after U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson won it from less camera-ready Republicans in the primary and then announced he wouldn’t actually follow through on an umpteenth term.
In truth, Gill’s campaign may not be issuing attack ads, but that’s because it doesn’t need to. In a letter to Tim Johnson made public, Gill writes that “Friends of David Gill has not aired a negative TV commercial or radio commercial so far in this race,” and he is telling the truth, but not really the whole truth.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is more than happy to sling offal for him, as it did with this ad lambasting Davis for supposed ties to corruption in Illinois politics.
“While I can express my disappointment with this negativity and hope these groups follow my lead,” Gill goes on to write, “I have no control over the decisions of the DCCC or any other third party group.”
While factual, the argument Gill makes is misleading, but it’s also hard to see what he or anybody else besides the Supreme Court can do about it: If you run for office on a major political party’s ticket at the federal level, you are of necessity going to be complicit in that party’s mudslinging, whether you cop to it or not.