WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama called for a constitutional amendment to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that made it easier for businesses to influence elections through large-scale donations.
“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,” to partisan political groups, Obama said during a chat on social news website Reddit.
The groups, known as Super PACs, “threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens,” added the president, who spoke out strongly against the court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling.
In the decision, the high court granted businesses and unions the right to make direct, unlimited and anonymous contributions to election campaigns.
The court ruled the issue was protected under the constitutional amendment that guarantees free speech.
Obama has urged Congress to vote to force Super PACs to reveal the names of their donors, but a related measure has so far been blocked.
“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,” Obama said.
“Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight on the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”
But Obama’s campaign announced early this year it was reluctantly endorsing the activities of Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing his reelection bid.
“The president opposed the Citizens United decision,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina wrote at the time in rationalizing the campaign’s support for Priorities USA Action.
“And the president favors action — by constitutional amendment, if necessary — to place reasonable limits on all such spending.”
For the past three months, donations to Obama’s re-election campaign have fallen short of those to his rival, Mitt Romney.
The most recent figures from July showed that Obama’s campaign has some $120 million at its disposal, compared to $180 million for Romney.
These figures don’t take into account the Super PACs, which the Republicans seem so far to have mobilized with greater success than Obama’s Democrats.