Obama Keeps Getting it Wrong on Campaign Finance

There he goes again.

On August 21, President Obama used his weekly radio address to rail against the “obstructive” minority in Congress and the “special interests” who seek to destroy our democracy.  Then, the topic was campaign finance “reform” born of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding free speech in Citizens United.  On September 18, he used virtually identical language to denounce opponents of the DISCLOSE Act.

To those of us of a certain age, the President is sounding like a record whose needle has gotten stuck.  That’s irritating.  But what’s worse is that almost everything the President keeps saying about the campaign finance system is wrong.

The “special interests” he deplores are merely the citizens and associations that oppose his policies on overspending, healthcare and the general nationalization of just about every sector of the economy he can get his hands on.  He loathes the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which threw out the unconstitutional ban on independent political expenditures, because the decision has freed many different entities, including nonprofit associations like the NRA, to participate in the public debate about what is happening to our nation.

In his latest tirade, the President claimed, without offering any evidence whatsoever, that “foreign-controlled corporations seeking to influence our democracy are able to spend freely in order to swing an election toward a candidate they prefer.”  Really?  Name one.  Federal campaign law bans foreign corporations from participating in American elections in any manner whatsoever. If the President has any evidence to support this claim, he should turn it over to the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department so they can prosecute the villains. 

The President also said that he wants to fix this (nonexistent) problem with a new law: the DISCLOSE Act, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D.-Md.). Obama claimed it “would simply require that you say who you are and who’s paying for your ad.”  In fact, the DISCLOSE Act is intended to prevent corporations (but not unions) from engaging in political speech.  Existing federal campaign finance law has more than adequate disclosure requirements already.  The DISCLOSE Act’s additional, burdensome requirements are clearly intended to deter political speech.

President Obama says we need this law because otherwise “tens of millions of dollars spent on misleading ads” will drown out “our” voices.  But this administration seems to consider any inconvenient truths about its policies to be “misleading.”  Exhibit A:  Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius’s recent attempt to censor the health insurance industry, threatening them because their warnings about coming premium price hikes necessitated by Obamacare were “misleading.”  It’s clear who is trying to drown out voices here.

First Amendment ‘Loophole’

The President also used his radio address to warn about attempts to “buy” elections.  That’s quite a warning from a man who spurned public funding for his presidential campaign so he could exceed spending limits.  Obama, you’ll recall, proceeded to raise three-quarters of a billion dollars—more money than any other presidential candidate in history.  Included in that total—according to reports in the National Journal and the Washington Times—were millions of dollars in what may have been illegal contributions by foreigners.

When President Obama charges that the Supreme Court “opened up this loophole” with the Citizens United decision, he suggests that the 1st Amendment right to engage in independent political speech, which the court said extends to everyone, is a horrible loophole.  The sole advantage of limiting free speech would be to mute criticism of his administration.  That’s censorship.  Yet President Obama persists in pushing this offensive line in his speeches about the Citizens United decision and in his weekly radio addresses.

Either his teleprompter is stuck on stupid, or President Obama thinks that merely repeating the same falsehood often enough will lead the American people to believe him.  So far, it doesn’t seem to be working.