Obama entertained a question and answer session on Reddit on Wednesday. One of the questions that he was asked was, “What are you going to do to end the corrupting influence of money in politics during your second term?” Here was his answer:
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.
Obama references Citizens United v. FEC, a 2010 Supreme Court decision that struck down key parts of McCain-Feingold’s “Campaign Finance Reform” legislation that should have been called “The Incumbent Protection Act.” Campaign finance laws (written by incumbents) make it extremely difficult for someone successfully to run against an incumbent.
You always had to have money to run for political office, but money was not nearly as much of a factor earlier in our history as it is now. Not too long ago, we had mostly citizen representatives who would sometimes voluntarily go back to their lives and careers at home after their term was up. It was more of a civic responsibility. Turnaround was far greater then than it is today. Nowadays, politicians are celebrities. Since our government has continually voted to increase their own paychecks, give themselves benefits and pensions, people have been making careers out of being politicians.
Politics is now all about money and power. Our laws are written by lobbyists who work for big corporations and “special interest groups.” These corporations want congressmen and senators to make laws that eliminate their competition and give them more power. How do these lobbyists convince representatives to sponsor such legislation? Money. Campaign contributions. Expensive political advertisements. Or whatever else they want. Big corporations, “special interest groups” and politicians all want the same thing: power. And these days, you get power with lots and lots of money. They don’t care about the Constitution unless it happens to benefit them in some way relating to money or power.
Once you get in the “system” and earn its trust by playing its game, the “system” will fight to keep you there. Our current system depends on spineless yes-men. The last thing Obama wants is to “get money out of politics.” On the contrary, he depends on it. He wants to eliminate his competition as much as possible to secure a second term. If you really want to get money out of politics, you have to elect statesmen with backbones who will not compromise their principles and be bought. Then, money won’t matter.