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Tom Murse

Obama's Plan to Kill Super PACs

By September 3, 2012

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Barack ObamaPresident Barack Obama is on record as being less than enthusiastic, to put it mildly, about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Citizens United, the court case that led to the creation of super PACs.

"With all due deference to separation of powers," Obama said in his January 2010 State of the Union address, "last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign corporations - to spend without limit in our elections."

Now he's also gone on record with an idea that would circumvent the court's decision and essentially ban super PACs.

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Obama called for the consideration of a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court's landmark 2010 decision in the case, which stated the federal government cannot limit corporations - or, for that matter, unions, associations or individuals - from spending money to influence the outcome of elections.

"Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it)," Obama wrote last week during a question-and-answer chat on the website Reddit.com. "Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight on the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change."

Passing a constitutional amendment would be extraordinarily difficult, especially in a Congress that is as partisan as this one. Obama indicated such a proposal would be a last resort.

Obama said Congress should first pass the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that would close a loophole in federal campaign disclosure laws by requiring nonprofit social welfare agencies that spend large sums of money trying to influence elections to identify their sources of funding. He also called for a ban on campaign contributions from lobbyists.

"Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds-barred flow of seven- and eight-figure checks, most undisclosed, into super PACs," Obama wrote. "They fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens."

Obama, of course, gave his top campaign fundraisers the OK to raise money for Priorities USA Action, a liberal super PAC supporting his re-election bid, earlier this year. But his campaign claimed Obama changed his mind only after conservative super PACs supporting Republican Mitt Romney began raising millions of dollars, given the challenger a substantial advantage in Election 2012.

"We decided to do this because we can't afford for the work you're doing in your communities, and the grass-roots donations you give to support it, to be destroyed by hundreds of millions of dollars in negative ads," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina wrote in an email to supporters.

[Photo: President Barack Obama/Getty Images]

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September 3, 2012 at 6:29 pm
(1) sonopasquale says:

That’s bull, President Obama has been using PACs consistently, before elected, after elected and running again with money from every progressive interest group that exists. And a constitutional amendment is not a circumvention, but a legal way of overturning a court decision. This would actually be a departure in the way President Obama runs the White House. He usually circumvents the will of the people (Congress) with executive orders, many of which are legally suspect.

September 4, 2012 at 12:50 am
(2) elizabeth says:

good for him! (AND us).

September 4, 2012 at 9:33 am
(3) Harley Bradshaw says:

Oh for crying out loud. Name ONE “executive order” that attempts to circumvent the law. President Obama is if nothing else pragmatic. From the very beginning the Right/Reich has made it no secret that their mission is to do everything possible to make sure that President Obama fails in each and every initiative – regardless of the consequences to the country. How they think we should now REWARD them to another term in office is beyond me. At the VERY least – we need a full disclosure act. If you contribute any money to any campaign or 501(c) organization it should be open to disclosure.

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January 31, 2013 at 11:30 pm
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