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Congressman Jerry McNerney

Representing the 9th District of California

President Obama wants to reverse Citizens United

Feb 9, 2015
In The News

President Obama is calling for a constitutional amendment to reduce the money flowing through American politics.

“I would love to see some constitutional process that would allow us to actually regulate campaign spending the way we used to, and maybe even improve it,” the president said during an interview with Vox published Monday.

Obama’s remarks are the latest to call for a radical shift in campaign finance law after several federal court rulings, including the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, paved the way for unlimited corporate and union spending in candidate elections.

Later this week, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., will join the ranks of politicians pushing for change when he introduces his proposal to amend the Constitution. His plan is dramatic. It would ban contributions from political action committees, for instance. Campaigns would be funded entirely by individual donations or money provided by a public-financing system.

McNerney said radical change is needed. “The system was pretty bad before,” he said. “Citizens United just made it worse. It changed from an arms race to a nuclear-arms race.”

Outside spending in politics soared to more than $1 billion in the 2012 presidential and congressional elections, up from nearly $340 million four years earlier, according to a tally by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. In last year’s midterm races for the House and Senate, outside groups outspent the candidates themselves in 28 races, the center found.

In all, 16 states have called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

Despite the high-profile calls for change, efforts to restrict campaign finance spending have failed to gain any traction in Congress. If anything, Congress and the courts are continuing to ease restrictions. Last year, Obama signed into law a $1 trillion spending bill that dramatically increased the amount of money political parties can raise from individual donors.