A few days ago, I took issue with my esteemed co-blogger for describing objections to the Citizens United ruling as unfathomable. Now let me turn around and challenge the rhetorical fireworks display that President Obama put together. In his weekly radio address, the President declared,
This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy. It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way – or to punish those who don’t. That means that any public servant who has the courage to stand up to the special interests and stand up for the American people can find himself or herself under assault come election time. Even foreign corporations may now get into the act.
I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.
The president’s imagination must be fairly limited if he can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. In fact, his credibility on the subject of campaign finance is rather limited, given how glibly he broke his own multiple promises to accept public financing for his own campaign in 2008.
More importantly, the evidence seems to go against the President’s assertions about the devastating impact of Citizens United. Of all places, it was in the NY Times where I read that,
Legal scholars and social scientists say the evidence is meager, at best, that the post-Watergate campaign finance system has accomplished the broad goals its supporters asserted.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy noted in his opinion that no evidence was marshaled in 100,000 pages of legal briefs to show that unrestricted campaign money ever bought a lawmaker’s vote…
A review of the biggest corporate donors found that their stock prices were unaffected after they stopped giving to the parties. The results suggest that those companies did not lose their influence and may have been giving “because they were shaken down by politicians,” said Nathaniel Persily, a professor at Columbia Law School who has studied the law’s impact…
“There is no evidence that stricter campaign finance rules reduce corruption or raise positive assessments of government,” said Kenneth Mayer, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It seems like such an obvious relationship but it has proven impossible to prove.”
Proof, shmoof. If we learned one thing from the Bush years, it’s that presidents create their own reality. Surely Barack Obama deserves the same latitude as his predecessor.