Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and The Nation’s Ari Melber argued Wednesday on MSNBC about whether President Barack Obama should have embraced super PACs.
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in January 2010 gave rise to super PACs, officially known as independent-expenditure only committees. The groups can raise an unlimited amount of money to influence federal elections, so long as they do not directly coordinate with a candidate’s campaign.
During his State of the Union speech in 2010, Obama criticized Supreme Court justices for “opening the floodgates” to special interest cash with their ruling.
Facing well-funded Republican candidates, Obama’s campaign has reversed course this week and is now encouraging rich Democratic donors to get involved in super PACs.
Reich said that Obama should have taken a stand against the Citizens United ruling by making his campaign about “the people versus power and privilege.” Instead, Obama has shown the country he is “going to play the game the way the Republicans are.”
But Melber disagreed.
“I think he did exactly what he has to do,” he said. “We’re talking about playing by the rules. He is playing by the rules, and some of the rules are bad and they should change. But he is dealing with a Republican Congress that has fought to filibuster the DISCLOSE Act and has fought against the insider trading bill, which I consider small reforms.”
“This isn’t how change has to work,” Melber added. “When you support higher taxes, it doesn’t mean you just start paying out higher taxes as an individual. You try to change the laws.”
“If he really does believe that the forces of wealth and income and concentrated power in this country are threatening democracy, as he did say before, I think that a principled stand could have attracted millions of small donations,” Reich responded.
“I think that by doing what he is doing now, he is actually discouraging, demoralizing some of his base, he is not going to get as many small donations.”
Watch video, courtesy of MSNBC, below: