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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

President Obama and Super PACs - Dangerous Bedfellows and "Flip-Flops"

Wait a minute! Didn't Obama admonish the Supreme Court over the infamous Citizens United ruling?

During his 2010 State of the Union, Obama scolded the Supreme Court: 

Obama also spoke out against this ruling prior to a congressional vote about additional campaign finance rules and regulations:

Now see this (CNN):

And this (MSNBC):

And this (ABC):

And this (Fox News):

And this (Yahoo!):

I have to give the media credit here; they did headline this. It has been on the front page of 4 of the 5 links above (Yahoo! had it buried).

What does this all mean? Will this have any effect in November? My prediction: probably not... but I think it should cause people to say, "hey... wait a minute!"

Personally, I agree with the Citizens United ruling. I don't believe the government should have the ability to regulate how a private individual's or a private company's money is spent in any way, but that's for a different debate. What is at the front and center here is what does this mean for Obama?

What do you think? If you're an Obama supporter, does this make you favor the president less? Is this irrelevant? Share your opinions below. Thank you.


  1. What? 0bama said one thing and then does another? Well, at least he was against it before he was for it.

    Telling the truth is not really 0bama's strength.

  2. I don't see this being all that relevant to any Obama supporter.

    The fact is, anyone who doesn't want to vote for a candidate that uses a super PAC will not have anyone to vote for; because everyone is using (and even abusing) them now. And regardless of Obama's thoughts on the Citizen's ruling, if he wants to compete in re-election he'll have to embrace it just because of its pure dominance in funding as it is currently being exercised by the GOP, and I think any political science enthusiast would agree.

    I think it's important to note though that Obama still hasn't openly supported or spoken in favor of them; and doesn’t even plan to have him or any significant part of his administration supporting any super PAC events (where as, this is obviously not the case for others). Though, I’m not convinced that won’t change.

    As detailed in those articles though he still seeks to reform campaign financing and disclosure laws, and that his campaign will continue to exercise full disclosure in all sources of funding even within the super PACs. Which is still more than what can be said for past and current use of some other super PACs, who also seem to be completely ignoring the elephant in the room as it continues (not one candidate has acknowledged or offered opinions/solutions on the problem).

    All in all, I’m fine with his decision and way of going about this, and feel it would be a stretch to truly call it hypocritical in an election of super PACs.

    This is no different to me than, for example, Warren Buffet speaking in favor of a more progressive tax system but still continuing to only pay taxes on what he owes. You can speak out about something being wrong/corrupt/miss-managed without having to be a martyr for the cause.

    Likewise, I support raising taxes, reforming SS/Medicare, and gaining oil independence as part of our ultimate debt/deficit and economic solutions. Doesn't mean I'm going to freely give an extra $1k to Uncle Sam every year, refuse medical care, and refuse to drive a car out of principle until policies are passed.

  3. Rken, good afternoon and it's good to see you again.

    This is the second paragraph from a NY Times story:

    "Aides said the president had signed off on a plan to dispatch cabinet officials, senior advisers at the White House and top campaign staff members to deliver speeches on behalf of Mr. Obama at fund-raising events for Priorities USA Action, the leading Democratic “super PAC,” whose fund-raising has been dwarfed by Republican groups. The new policy was presented to the campaign’s National Finance Committee in a call Monday evening and announced in an e-mail to supporters."

    As far as Buffett goes, he is a hypocrite. His company, Berkshire Hathaway is fighting the IRS over ONE BILLION DOLLARS that it owes. If he would pay that, maybe he wouldn't feel like he needs to pay more.

    "Report: Buffett's Berkshire Owes $1 Billion In Back Taxes"

    I also recommend that you take 47 seconds and watch Obama in his own words about Super PAC's here:

    To say that then and then do the very same seems a tad hypocritical to me.

    1. Good afternoon to you too 32slim32,

      I honestly just still don't see this as something that can be used against him very effectively.

      There are plenty of things that can be, as I'm sure many here will agree with, but this one in particular just doesn't hold much weight.

      If you think that super PACs are a problem and disparage Obama for using them, do you apply the same criticism towards the Republican candidates that are almost exclusively running their campaigns off of them? If you don’t, then it can hurt the credibility of your argument as many will view that as a double standard. And if you do, then ultimately you still likely will opt to support Obama if nothing else because he still has spoken out against them (while others have not at all, and continue to outright ignore it as a problem).

      Again, you can still disagree with something without being a martyr for the cause. As another example, many people disagreed with Bush's tax refund stimulus years ago, but that didn't stop much of anyone from cashing the checks once in their hands.

      I don't quite want to segway into Warren Buffet, but a publically traded firm owing taxes is much different from Warren himself (or Warren’s private firm) owing taxes. Maybe if he was the majority stakeholder I'd feel differently, but he isn't; and needless to say shareholders don't typically opt for philanthropy over the bottom line.

  4. RKen, I don't care about Super PAC's, one way or the other. 0bama had pretty harsh words against them, them chooses to participate. To me, that's a little bit hypocritical. If you don't see it that way that's fine.

    Getting back to Buffett:

    As of July 1, 2010, Buffett owned 32.4% aggregate voting power of Berkshire's shares outstanding and 23.3% of the economic value of those shares.[13] Berkshire's vice-chairman, Charlie Munger, also holds a stake big enough to make him a billionaire, and early investments in Berkshire by David Gottesman and Franklin Otis Booth resulted in their becoming billionaires as well. Bill Gates' Cascade Investments LLC is the second largest shareholder of Berkshire and owns more than 5% of class B shares.


    Buffett is also CEO and Vice-Chairman of the board.

    1. I don't disagree with it being hypocritical on some level, I just don't find it completely relevant or much of a powerful element that can be used against him. If every candidate in the race wasn’t already using super PACs to generate obscene amounts of financial support, maybe it’d mean something, but until then it really doesn’t.

      The fact that full-disclosure is still being enforced also speaks heavily in favor of him not being completely hypocritical in this move, as the anonymous nature of super PACs is what Obama (and just about all others) have expressed to be the most potentially corrupt/damaging part of them (due to exploitation in special interests).

      I know that Buffet is CEO, and Vice-Chairman, and a 32% owner, etc, but none of that again changes the fact he doesn't hold majority voting power. He could wake up tomorrow and want to turn Berkshire Hathaway into Fisherprice with all his heart and soul, but without the other 68% of votes he's not going to get his way.

      And I highly doubt that he would have any more success with enforcing his political beliefs in a company that practically exists for the sole purpose of the bottom line.

    2. Watch RKEN, this will be Obama's death. Even the lib media turned on him on this one. The GOP will eat it up.

      - Duke

    3. I see your point about Buffett, RKen. You're right he does need more votes. However, look at it this way. He owns 32% of the company. When Berkshire Hathaway strokes that Billion Dollar check to the IRS, his net worth decreases by $320 million, yet here he is here running around comparing apples (Income Taxes) to oranges (capital gains taxes)and saying he doesn't pay enough.

      If he doesn't feel like he is paying his "fair share", how about he do this, pay his share (32%) of what Berkshire owes, $320,000,000.00, then come back and let us know if he is still not paying enough. Until he does that, I wish he would just shut his fat trap.

      Oh yeah, his secretary, she earns somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000 based on what they claim her rate is. Wouldn't that get her out of the middle class and up there in the bracket that 0bama refers to as "Millionaires and Billionaires". I guess their logic on that is if you make $250,000 a year for 4 years you're a Millionaire and in only 4,000 years you'll be a Billionaire.(I guess they have no expenses at that income level too, I'm not sure they come to that conclusion.)

      Ironically, his railroad company stands to make a handsome profit thanks to the President's inaction on the Keystone Pipeline.

      I hear his words but I see his actions too. He says one thing and does another, in my opinion.

  5. I actually agree with both of you (RKen and Slim). I agree with RKen that Obama must use Super PACs no matter how he feels about them and that, just because he doesn't like them, doesn't mean he has to essentially give up his re-election campaign to prove a point. That being said, I think he should have come out and made a statement himself. He made a statement one way and whether he feels he is using the Super PACs out of necessity or not, he should be forthright with the people and explain the apparent disconnect between his words and actions. It will always play with more genuine honesty if you make a personal announcement than if the media 'breaks' the story. I think that is what Slim was getting at though I wouldn't want to put words in his mouth.

    I don't blame Obama for using them but I do blame him for not being more forthcoming.

    I was also disappointed that Obama didn't take the time during the SOTU to address the issue again and outwardly support Bernie Sanders' constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United which, hold on to your seat LME, I vehemently disagree with (disagree with Citizens United not Bernie Sanders)! :)

  6. Good afternoon - I finally have some time to chime in after a rough day at the office lol.

    For me personally, as I have said, I do believe that the SCOTUS made the right decisions in the Citizens United case. In the name of freedom, I am glad that they ruled that the government is not so powerful that it can limit the size and scope by which people and corporations can spend with their own private money. I think if they didn't rule as they did, it would have been a dangerous precedent and it would have trampled on our rights to spend our money freely and express ourselves in such a way. Either way, I just had to get that opinion out there.

    This, to me, is a completely separate issue. First, as RKen said, I don't think this will have a big impact. My opinion, however, has nothing to do with why... it's more of the how. The fact that Obama flipped on this (whatsamattausa, I agree with you with regards to method), to me is pretty big. In the clip above, and in subsequent speeches thereafter, Obama has been against SuperPACs and campaign funding of the like. In the clip above he says, "it will open the floodgates for corporations and special interests to influence our elections and spend without limits. I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests." To me, he is now saying... "hey, special interests, corporations, and America's most powerful interests.... bankroll my reelection campaign!"
    To me, it shows holding on to power, holding on to his presidency is greater than his morals. He was so sound in his opinion of the Citizens United case that he singled out the interpreters of our Constitution, the Supreme Court 10 feet in front of him in front of 535 congresspeople (this is not how it is done, btw). He is not so sound now that all it takes is the basic logic of "I know you are but what am I" to make him reverse his position. The "just because the republicans did it I will do it" shouldn't make it right. He would, in my opinion, receive much higher praise if he continued to stand up for what he believe in. I find it funny that many have said (including those on the right) that Mitt Romney will do anything to get elected. Well, to me, Barack Obama has shown that he will now do anything to stay elected... even if it means fundamentally going against something he so strongly believed in.

    These are just my opinions on it. Thank you.

  7. How could anyone (not in the top 1%) be in favor of the Citizens United SCOTUS decision?

    LME justifies the decision, saying that "the government is not so powerful that it can limit the size and scope by which people and corporations can spend with their own private money"

    As a surface argument this may sound innocuous, but that statement is a farce. The Citizens United decision basically says that those with the MOST cash get to speak the loudest. The idea that money is speech favors the wealthy and spits in the face of those without wealth. There are plenty of legitimate interests in this country without the resources to spend limitless cash to influence voters (poverty and education activism immediately comes to mind). Under the Citizen's United decision, we are basically saying that it is just too bad if your cause or concern (regardless of importance or relevance) can't afford to run political ads. In this country, only money talks.

    In a country where 400 people own more wealth than the bottom 50% of the entire population, who's interests are served by this decision? Who stands to benefit? Who gets left out?

    1. Anonymous - Thank you for your post.

      I am in favor of the Citizens United decision for the exact reason I stated: I favor the Constitution. I understand the problem you're citing, but, no matter the problem, does that mean we violate the Constitution? Is it okay to violate it because some people are not in favor of it. How do you suppose we preserve free speech with this issue? If the CU case was not decided the way it was, we would have limited the rights of people (granted, many with large amounts of money) to speak and express themselves freely. That might seem okay to us normal folks because it doesn't affect us, but that goes in direct violation of the First Amendment. How could we be in favor of such a thing? In addition, like I said, it sets up a very dangerous precedent.

      This issue reminds me a lot of the Patriot Act. It is trumpeted as a major piece of legislation to protect Americans. Many say, "oh, yah, I agree, our safety is important..." but to what length. Many Ron Paul supporters, for instance (this blog does not endorse any one GOP candidate) say, yes, the Patriot Act is unconstitutional. Though it helps us be safe, it goes against what this country was founded on. I see the CU case in the same way. Though it would solve a certain problem that many people feel is needed (just like the Patriot act) it violates would violate the First Amendment if it was decided differently. We can't simply go against our Constitution when it is convenient. These are my opinions on this issue. Looking forward to hearing more of yours. Thank you.