According to a new book by Ken Vogel, President Obama told Democratic donors that he believes he is in a strong position to lead the movement to ratify a constitutional amendment to repeal Citizens United.
In his newly published book, Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp—on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics, Ken Vogel reports on a 2012 fundraiser where President Obama had some interesting remarks for Democratic donors on his future plans to get rid of Citizens United:
“The Supreme Court made a constitutional ruling that was absolutely wrong, and that I said was wrong in a State of the Union speech. In front of the Supreme Court justices,” he said,1 smiling slyly, as he recalled chastising the justices on live television a week after Citizens United. “Because I foresaw what was going to happen,” he told the donors. “I mean, this just basically eliminated all the rules.” He went on, “Because it’s a constitutional ruling—a ruling on the First Amendment—we can’t overturn it legislatively, and there are limits to what we can do administratively. There are some things that probably would comport with the ruling in terms of requiring disclosure.”
But, he added, referencing Charles and David Koch, “the disclosure is not a sufficient deterrent for a lot of these folks who are writing checks.” No, Obama continued, “the only way we’re going to do it effectively, I think, is with a constitutional amendment.” Since Citizens United, some of the goo-goos who opposed big money in politics had reached the same conclusion. “Now, I taught constitutional law,” Obama continued to Gates et alia. “I don’t tinker with the Constitution lightly. But I think this is important enough that citizens have to get mobilized around this issue, and this will probably be a multiyear effort. After my reelection, my sense is that I may be in a very strong position to do it.”
The president’s remarks are exactly why Republicans like Sens. Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz are freaking out and claiming that Democrats want to repeal the First Amendment. The process to amend the Constitution takes years, but with the political landscape tilting more to the left, Democrats could have a real chance to see a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United ratified someday.
A popular mobilization on the issue should scare the heck out of Republicans. The income inequality issue is on the minds of most Americans. If Democrats and the left could ever successfully make the argument that Citizens United is perpetuating an inequality of democracy, Republicans and the Koch Brothers would both be in big trouble.
Republicans don’t want the American people to understand the extent of the damage that Citizens United is doing. The hyperbole has become so delusional that during his Senate testimony today, Mitch McConnell compared the Koch brothers and other right-wing billionaires to Benjamin Franklin.
The issue is not about free speech. The question is whether or not wealthy political donors should have the ability to buy the government. The Koch brothers don’t spend hundreds of millions of dollars on speech. They are spending their money to buy Republican politicians who will carry out their agenda.
Citizens United is an attack on the principle of one person, one vote. It is undemocratic for the wealthy to be able to buy the government that is supposed to represent all of the people. President Obama is in a good position to lead the charge against Citizens United. The time to act is now. Nothing less than our future as a representative democracy is at stake.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association