President Obama took to Reddit last week for an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session that drew 3.8 million participants.
Of the many questions he answered, perhaps most intriguing to progressives was his endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Saving Democracy Amendment, a constitutional amendment that tackles campaign finance reform and specifically overturns the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision.
Although he admitted there is only a small chance that the amendment would pass, it does give a boost to a conversation about dark money and it’s place in the American political spectrum. Answering a participant’s question, Obama stated:
“Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds barred flow of seven and eight figure checks, most undisclosed, into super-PACs; they fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. We need to start with passing the Disclose Act that is already written and been sponsored in Congress – to at least force disclosure of who is giving to who. We should also pass legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists. 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). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”
The Disclose Act would require transparency for large campaign contributions, ending the current practice that allows dark money from special interests to (mis)guide the public via television advertisements. Despite public support, Senate Democrats allowed the bill to be filibustered. Sanders proposed constitutional amendment goes much farther than the Disclose Act.
Sen. Sanders Saving Democracy Amendment states:
SECTION 1. The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, or other private entities established for business purposes or to promote business interests under the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state.
SECTION 2. Such corporate and other private entities established under law are subject to regulation by the people through the legislative process so long as such regulations are consistent with the powers of Congress and the States and do not limit the freedom of the press.
SECTION 3. Such corporate and other private entities shall be prohibited from making contributions or expenditures in any election of any candidate for public office or the vote upon any ballot measure submitted to the people.
SECTION 4. Congress and the States shall have the power to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own spending, and to authorize the establishment of political committees to receive, spend, and publicly disclose the sources of those contributions and expenditures.