While addressing the Illinois General Assembly, President Obama did what the billionaires and special interests fear most. He took the Citizens United fight to the states.
While addressing the Illinois General Assembly, the President said:
Now, this year, just over 150 families — 150 families — have spent as much on the presidential race as the rest of America combined. Today, a couple of billionaires in one state can push their agenda, dump dark money into every state — nobody knows where it’s coming from — mostly used on these dark ads, everybody is kind of dark and the worst picture possible. And there’s some ominous voice talking about how they’re destroying the country.
And they spend this money based on some ideological preference that really is disconnected to the realities of how people live. They’re not that concerned about the particulars of what’s happening in a union hall in Galesburg, and what folks are going through trying to find a job. They’re not particularly familiar with what’s happening at a VFW post. In Carbondale. They haven’t heard personally from farmers outside of the Quads and what they’re going through. Those are the voices that should be outweighing a handful of folks with a lot of money. I’m not saying the folks with a lot of money should have no voice; I’m saying they shouldn’t be able to drown out everybody else’s.
And that’s why I disagree with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. I don’t believe that money is speech, or that political spending should have no limits, or that it shouldn’t be disclosed. I still support a constitutional amendment to set reasonable limits on financial influence in America’s elections.
But amending the Constitution is an extremely challenging and time-consuming process — as it should be. So we’re going to have to come up with more immediate ways to reduce the influence of money in politics. There are a lot of good proposals out there, and we have to work to find ones that can gain some bipartisan support — because a handful of families and hidden interests shouldn’t be able to bankroll elections in the greatest democracy on Earth.
President Obama was correct it will be difficult to get a constitutional amendment ratified, but there are other ways to take on Citizens United. States can and should be doing more to get money out of politics. Unlimited dark money at any level of government is bad news for every citizen. It can be argued that Citizens United has made the lives of Americans worse because the billionaires and corporations have been very successful in buying governors and state legislatures.
The one thing that the Kochs and their billionaire buddies fear the most is an enlightened electorate. Most people think that Citizens United is a federal issue, but at the state and local level, dark money can swamp elections. Citizens United has created a barrier that keeps many good people from running for public office because they can’t raise the funds needed to compete with the billionaires and special interests.
Citizens United is a plague on our democracy, and as President Obama suggested all levels of government must come together to get dark money out of our politics.
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