Have Democrats Given Up on Reforming Citizens United?

Lost a bit in the initial round of “what will Hillary Clinton do next” speculation was the fact that Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign talk is about as clear evidence we have that Democrats have accepted, and perhaps even come to love, a post-Citizens United world.

The “Ready for Hillary” super PAC registered with the Federal Election Commission just as Clinton was transitioning out of her role as Secretary of State. The group is chaired by Allida Black, a long-time Clinton Supporter. Black is the founder of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project at George Washington University and the Roosevelt Institute. According to reports Black has been relatively low-key about the launch, explaining in an email the the Center for Public Integrity that “[o]ur purpose is simple: we are ready to work for Hillary to be president when she is ready to run.”

The presence of independent super PAC’s alone doesn’t mean Clinton is considering running or even that Democrats are in the big money game. But as these groups start to raise money, President Obama announced during the 60 Minutes interview with Clinton that he was working to help his former cabinet member retire her campaign debt. If that debt’s retired Clinton is an even stronger fund-raising force to reckon with. Although technically candidates are prohibited from coordinating with super PACs, this case would be more implicit, which makes it okay under our current campaign finance laws.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the former Secretary of State is just hitting her stride in public leadership and I would love to see her back in public office, but I do not believe a cycle of perpetual campaigning is good for our democracy and public policy. And thanks to Citizens United, we now live in a culture of the never-ending campaign. It’s fatiguing. It distorts loyalties, and it does not lend itself to playing a long-game and coming up with broad policy solutions. I’ll offer the 112th Congress as our most recent, and most perfect example of these conclusions in action.

And at one point President Obama and Democrats showed a potential for actual reform on this issue. Calling out the disastrous decision during the State of the Union address put the issue of dark money and bought-off elections squarely on the table, yet in the end dark money once again beat back meaningful reform.

Then came the 2012 presidential election and Priorities USA Action, a super PAC founded by former White House aides to work toward the president’s re-election.

To their credit when Priorities USA Action was launched the Obama team acknowledged it was a reversal, but one necessitated by the reality of campaign finance law as it stands. If 2012 was the trial balloon of life with the super PAC then 2016 will be the year Democrats move in.


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Photo from Titanic Belfast via flickr.


Grace Adams
Grace Adams5 years ago

Since corporations have more money than GOD they RULE--this will NOT change in the foreseeable future. It will be necessary for anyone who wants anything through government to figure out which corporations are most interested (for or against) in the issue and negotiate with those corporations. Anything else is very likely to get one killed.

rene davis
irene davis5 years ago

Thank you.

David C.
David C5 years ago

@Stephen B

Dems want CU becuse "The unions which donate so much to Democrat campaigns are also technically corporations"

Gimme a break. If you total the entire gross take of every union in the US, the sum of all union dues, you wouldn't even hit one year of Exxon profits. And that is gross take, before any spending on union activities. Obviously only a fraction of the total collected is available for political contributions. It is laughable to suggest that union contributions could ever match corporate donations. The biggest union contribution is people working for campaigns, getting out the vote, etc..

And all you posters who put Obama in the pocket of corporations, say he's just as bad as the R's, go look at the source of his campaign funds. Romney got $118 million from donations less than $200, 27% of his disbursements. Obama got $480 million from small donors, 67% of his disbursements.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/have-democrats-given-up-on-reforming-citizens-united.html#ixzz2JxJUPWBe

Steven R.
Steve Rose5 years ago

This article is wrong. The democrats do want this repealed, but they realize they need to wait until President Obama gets the oppotunity in the next 4 years to appoint new supreme court justices to replace those appointed by 12 years of Bush appointments of justices who are in the $ pocket of industry and then have the issue come up for a revote and Amend CU.

If Hillary Clinton runs in 2016, she will be elected the first President, but she will not need corporate money to win.


Jean Wall
Jean Wall5 years ago

Citizen's United was decided on first amendment considerations and the established point of law that corporations, under certain circumstances were the legal equivalent of persons and money was the equivalent of speech.Because of the case law behind it, it will not likely be overturned outright. The most immediate things that can be done are to plausibly enforce the provision that these PACs cannot coordinate with a candidate, and tighten up the fiscal reporting of the PACs to a quarterly report. The way the law is structured these PACs are chartered as ,say, advancing education or whatever as a primary mission. They can spend some % of their funds on lobbying and advocacy and some % must go to their chartered objective. The IRS oversees their financials to make sure they are doing what their tax status requires. The hitch being that the PAC can have 3-4 YEARS to turn over their books. In the mean time, the damage is done, the PAC dissolves and with no corresponding entity, even if the IRS finds illegalities, they have no one to prosecute, since donors are anonymous and the organization itself is defunct.The SCOTUS warned of this obvious potential for corruption in its ruling, but cannot legislate from the bench.

Sharon Blodinger
Sharon Blodinger5 years ago

Sadly, I don't think CU is going anywhere. I do think it pretty sad that Hillary has failed to pay her debts from the last campaign in full as of now, and I do not think she should run for president!

Carol Ann O.
Carol Ann O5 years ago

She deserves to rest and spend time with her girls.. Don`t think she and Bill have much of a private life anymore!

Aludra N.
susan m5 years ago

Unless you are part of the solution, you're part of the problem. CU is so insane it boggles the mind of anyone with one functioning brain cell, we need to stop playing dead, stand up, and demand that this travesty be stopped. Wake up, stay awake.

Kim W.
Kim W5 years ago

Every elected official needs to pull his/her head out of their behind and realize that this is our country, they are hired to do a job, and at this time they are all doing a crap job.

Susan T.
Susan T5 years ago

Both parties have been corrupted by money for quite some time. It's a political reality that in the current situation it takes millions to get elected.

Until we the people really raise hell nothing will change.