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Opinion
Frank Barry

Forget the Dictionary, Super PACs Aren't New

Merriam-Webster's new entry for “super PAC” in its dictionary unfortunately perpetuates a gross misunderstanding of the impact Citizens United has had on political spending.
Photographer: Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images
Photographer: Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Merriam-Webster announced this week that it has added the term "super PAC" to its dictionary. The entry cites a quote tracing the term's birth to the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision and a subsequent lower court ruling. That connection -- while technically accurate -- unfortunately perpetuates a gross misunderstanding of the impact the case has had on political spending.

There may be no bigger bogeyman in liberal political circles than Citizens United, which is widely blamed for a huge increase in outside campaign spending by wealthy interests. Much of that growth, however, has been via channels that had nothing to do with the case, and much of the rest probably would have happened anyway.