COLUMN: Obama has changed tone on Super PACs
“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign companies — to spend without limit in our elections. Well, I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities.”
Those were President Barack Obama’s words during his 2010 State of the Union address regarding the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court case, which allowed unlimited spending by corporations and organizations for political purposes.
The ruling allowed for what have become popularly known as “Super PACs” (political action committees), something President Obama described as “not just a threat to Democrats, (but) a threat to our democracy.”
Last week, the tone from the president changed. Obama began encouraging donors to support outside groups, and his campaign manager, Jim Messina, told reporters, “We’re not going to fight this fight with one hand tied behind our back. With so much at stake, we can’t allow for two sets of rules. Democrats can’t be unilaterally disarmed.”
Whether you agree with the president on Super PACs or not, the sheer hypocrisy coming from him here is obvious. All of a sudden, it becomes OK to do something that threatens our democracy as long as you are doing it to get reelected? If Obama truly disagrees with the Citizens United ruling and finds Super PACs to be such terrible things, he should never resort to using them against his principles for electoral gain.
In response to Obama’s reversal, former Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., said, “I … think it guts the president's message and the Democratic Party's message. We are doing very well right now. The president is doing brilliantly. This is no time to blunt that message by starting to play this game. I think people will see it as phony that Democrats start playing by Republican rules. People will see us as weak and not being a true alternative and just being the same as the other guy. And as I have said before, to me this is dancing with the devil.”
Feingold, one of the most principled senators this country has ever seen, hit the nail squarely on the head here.
For those who believe the Citizens United ruling and Super PACs are positives for free speech, by all means continue funding and helping Super PACs spread their message.
On the flip side of this coin, shame on Obama and any other Democrat who criticized Super PACs but now plans on using them because it has become a political necessity. The point that politicians sacrifice their principles to get reelected is the time when the people need to step in and stop reelecting them.
Not only is Obama’s stance a self-described threat to democracy; it is also hypocritical. In this reversal, Obama showed us a dark secret of “Hope and Change;” they only matter when they are politically expedient to his reelection.
Nathan Inks is the president of College Republicans. The column does not reflect views of the organization.