When it comes to political money, President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney are delivering the same message from their respective conventions: Do as I say, not as I do.
Last week, Romney told Fox News Sunday that he “absolutely” supports public financing, even as his party’s convention platform outlined opposition to disclosure legislation and to existing limits on soft (unregulated) money. To confuse matters further, Romney has also called for throwing out limits on donations to parties and candidates.
This week, Obama’s sending equally mixed campaign finance signals. On the one hand, Obama said recently that he backs a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling to deregulate political money. Democrats’ party platform also calls for “immediate action” to curb special interests, including new disclosure rules.
But no sooner had Democrats released their squeaky-clean platform plank than the Washington Post reported that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is leaving his post as the Obama campaign’s honorary chairman to raise unrestricted money for Obama-friendly super PACs.
It’s precisely the kind of move that has watchdogs complaining that super PACs, which by law must operate independently from the politicians they back, are actually little more than extensions of the candidates’ campaigns. Democracy 21 has repeatedly written to Attorney General Eric Holder to complain that both Obama and Romney — who has personally met with super PAC donors — are colluding with the super PACs that endorse them.
The news about Emanuel comes as no surprise, Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said.
“We’re in the middle of a campaign,” Wertheimer sighed. “The Republicans are killing the Democrats on money from millionaires and billionaires, on super PAC money and secret money. And it’s not surprising that Democrats are doing what they can to try to deal with this.”
For both candidates, Wertheimer added, the issue is not what candidates promise on the campaign trail but what they do once in office. He noted that in 2008, then-candidate Obama pledged to overhaul the public financing system but failed to follow through: “At this stage, there’s only one test for any candidate or elected official, and that is: What are they really prepared to do on bringing about fundamental changes to a corrupt campaign finance system?”
— Eliza Newlin Carney