In the name of protecting his fundraising juggernaut, President Obama has reneged on campaign finance promises that he knew full well he would not keep. Back in 2008, after stating repeatedly that he would abide by the public finance system, then-candidate Barack Obama reversed himself in favor of raising unlimited private money, setting new fundraising records. Now in 2012, President Obama is flip-flopping on Super PACs, the federal PACs that only make independent expenditures in support of or in opposition to candidates.
Over the last two years President Obama has been criticizing the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision - even lecturing the Justices seated in front of him during his 2010 State of the Union Speech. In the run up to the 2010 mid-term elections, President Obama made the Citizens United decision an issue in the campaign on a daily basis. In his criticism, the president sought to demonize Citizens United, even calling it a “threat to our democracy.”
It is President Obama’s policies that threaten democracy, not the Citizens United decision. The government takeover of health care, unaccountable czars, and unconstitutional recess appointments are but a few examples of Obama’s disregard for our republican system of government. President Obama and his policies are a threat to our democratic republic and the First Amendment rights reinstated via Citizens United are the antidote to his bully pulpit. With political speech freed once again, the American people thoroughly rejected President Obama’s arguments by electing a Republican controlled House of Representatives in 2010.
Today, President Obama and his campaign are fully embracing the Citizens United decision and the Super PACs that were made possible because of the Citizens United and Speech Now cases. It is the right of President Obama and his political operation to use the tools available to them from our decision in their re-election efforts. But it incenses me that President Obama and the whole Democrat Party went on a rampage against the Citizens United decision in 2010 and now they are going back on their words because it will potentially help them politically. What was once a “threat to our democracy” is suddenly as American as apple pie now that the president has found a way to raise more money.
The pro-Obama Super PAC that has been given the president’s blessing is called Priorities USA and was founded by Obama’s former deputy press secretary Bill Burton. Last June, Citizens United produced a short web video called “Obama Hypocrisy” that highlighted an Obama speech condemning outside groups run by candidates’ former staffers during the Democratic primary race in 2007. If President Obama cared to stick to his so-called principles, he would condemn Priorities USA rather than encourage it. The One Billion Dollar Man’s claims that this hypocritical reversal will finally allow him to compete with Republicans on a level playing field is laughable.
Alas, now it looks like President Obama’s cabinet is up for sale to the highest bidder. Four members of his cabinet have signaled that they will help Priorities USA raise funds. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk have all signed up to help.
In the wake of the Solyndra scandal, should Secretary Chu really be raising funds for a Super PAC? Shouldn’t Secretary Salazar focus on domestic oil production so that we are not dependent on Middle Eastern oil? Shouldn’t Secretary Duncan focus on improving America’s schools? Shouldn’t U.S. Trade Representative Kirk be focused on the great trade deficit with China? All of these cabinet members should be beholden to the American taxpayer and not to the fundraising needs of Priorities USA.
The fundamental purpose of the Citizens United decision was to allow more speech into the political process and Super PACs help bring other voices. I am glad that with his decision to embrace Super PACs, President Obama and I finally agree on something. The difference is that I believe in the First Amendment and the Citizens United decision, and Obama only does when he can profit from it.