In his weekly radio address President Barack Obama called on the Republicans to allow a vote on a campaign finance bill written in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the landmark Citizens United case.
Trying to energize populist sentiments in support of the bill, Obama once again held out the specter of “foreign-controlled corporations” buying millions of dollars in television ads designed to influence the electorate “as special interests take to the airwaves.”
Either the president--who formerly served on the faculty of a U.S. law school and is supposed to be some sort of constitutional scholar--has misread the decision or is deliberately and obviously speaking about it in ways that are designed to mislead the electorate.
As Brad Smith, the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission explained recently, “Federal law already prohibits any corporation that is not incorporated and headquartered in the United States from making any political expenditures.”
The continued reliance on the idea of foreign contributions being made to U.S. elections as a talking point by Obama and by the Democrats who wrote and support the Disclose Act is nothing more than a straw man. As Smith also notes, current FEC regulations “prohibit any foreign national from being involved in political spending decisions” while any funds spent in the political process must come from “U.S. earnings.” This was the law before the Citizens United decision was handed down and, of equal importance, it remains the law today.
Leaving aside the many discrepancies that were uncovered by the media but left uninvestigated by the FEC in Obama’s own presidential campaign, the effort to undo the Supreme Court’s decision in this case runs counter to the oft-repeated mantra that the court’s word is and should be the last on matter of constitutional importance. The Disclose Act is, as others have written, little more than an effort by the current majority party to make it harder for the minority to find the funds they need to run effective and winning campaigns. It’s an exercise in raw political power, not constitutional governance, and the GOP is right to resist it.