by Justin Elliott, ProPublica.
President Obama talks about changes but hasn’t instituted many. He favors legislation that would require disclosure of donors to dark money non-profits. The president has also floated a Constitutional amendment to address Citizens United — an idea that’s currently politically impossible. Yet advocates point out Obama hasn’t even instituted campaign finance measures that he could do on his own using executive power.
Mitt Romney has mostly stayed mum. His campaign doesn’t have an official position paper on campaign finance and wouldn’t answer questions. When asked, Romney has said he favors removal of contribution limits to candidates, as a way to bring money from outside groups back into campaigns. He has also said he favors donor disclosure but hasn’t signaled support of specific legislation.
Here are the details:
Obama supports the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that would require disclosure of donors to politically active non-profits, which are currently funded with anonymous money. In July, the bill failed to get 60 votes in the Senate after Republicans opposed it. An earlier version passed the House in 2010 when Democrats were in the majority.
In its statement on the disclosure bill, the administration criticized the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United as “bringing about an era where corporations and other wealthy interests can exert vastly disproportionate influence, including through anonymous donations.”
In August, during a Q&A session on the website Reddit, Obama said the country should eventually consider a Constitutional amendment.
“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),” the president wrote. “Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight on the Super PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”
He did not give specifics on what such an amendment would say.
Meanwhile, campaign finance regulation advocates in Washington have been disappointed by Obama’s first term.
“There are a lot tangible things that he could have done that he did not do,” says Lisa Gilbert, director of Congress Watch at Public Citizen.
Gilbert and other advocates pointed to an executive order drafted by the White House and floated in the media in 2011 that would have required government contractors to reveal political spending, which would shed light on otherwise unreported corporate contributions.
A year later, The Hill reported that the administration had “all but abandoned” the idea. It’s never been implemented.
Regulation advocates also complain that the administration has not offered nominations for the five of six FEC commissioners whose terms have expired. The agency, which has three slots for members of each party, is paralyzed by partisan deadlock on many issues.