Another specious Obama attack on Citizens United

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in McCutheon v. Federal Election Commission. At issue is the constitutionality of a limit on the total amount of money an individual can spend in support of federal candidates. Currently, the limit is $48,600 during a two-year election cycle.

Meanwhile, at his news conference, President Obama asserted a connection between the overturning of campaign financing restrictions and the current shutdown showdown. He said: “I’ve continued to believe that [the] Citizens United [decision] contributed to some of the problems we’re having in Washington right now.” Obama explained that some Republicans are willing to compromise with him but fear that deep-pocketed outside groups will target them for defeat if they compromise.

Obama should know what motivates politicians not to compromise. He should also know that Citizens United is not providing such motivation now.

Under Citizens United, corporations and labor union can spend directly on elections. Corporations generally aren’t enthusiastic about the partial government shutdown. They aren’t driving it and neither is their political spending. Karl Rove, the symbol of “evil” PAC spending after Citizens United, couldn’t have spoken out more clearly against the shutdown.

The shutdown is fueled by grassroots sentiment, which tends to find expression through things like Talk Radio plus lots of small and medium size contributions, not corporate money. Obama and company would be hard pressed to choke off grassroots spending through their usual campaign financing law gambits, which would also affect contributions to liberal Democrats.

Maybe that’s why the IRS stepped in.


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