Bloomberg News

Obama Says Amendment May Be Needed to Limit Campaign Finance

August 29, 2012

President Barack Obama said he would “seriously consider” seeking a constitutional amendment that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision that removed limits on campaign spending by corporations and unions.

“We need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United, assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it,” Obama said today during an online chat on the Reddit website. “Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”

The Supreme Court decision in a case known as Citizens United allowed corporations and unions for the first time to spend unlimited amounts of money on ads advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. The court’s majority said restrictions on such spending violated the Constitution’s free-speech guarantee.

Obama has been critical of the decision since it was announced; in his 2010 State of the Union address, he cautioned it would “open the floodgates for special interests.”

The ruling led to the development of so-called super- political action committees, independent groups able to take unlimited donations to support candidates. Those include organizations that don’t have to disclose contributors. In the 2010 elections, 308 non-party groups reported spending money to influence voters, and only 166 of those reported where the money came from.

Campaign Impact

In this year’s presidential campaign, the super-PACs supporting Republican nominee Mitt Romney have outstripped Obama’s backers in raising and spending money.

Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney group which raised $7.5 million last month, reported $20.5 million in the bank, and American Crossroads, founded with the help of former President George W. Bush’s chief political adviser Karl Rove, brought in $7.1 million and had $29.5 million left to spend.

Priorities USA Action, founded by former Obama aides, brought in $4.8 million and had a bank balance of $4.2 million.

Obama answered questions from users of Reddit following a campaign rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He said that “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.”

The amount of money will “fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens,” he said.

He repeated his support for the Disclose Act, which would require groups that spend at least $10,000 on an election to report donations of more than $10,000 within 24 hours of such expenditures. Senate Republicans have blocked the bill, which was written in response to the Citizen’s United ruling.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Washington at kandersen7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net


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