Where do the Candidates Stand on Citizens United?

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The morning after the presidential town hall debate, we posted a question to our Facebook friends: “What would you have asked the candidates if you had been in the audience at last night’s debate?” We got hundreds of replies on a range of topics. From now until Election Day (Nov. 6), we’ll do our best to answer your questions for the candidates by researching what they’ve said on the issues in the past.

Karin O. Shepherd-Buchanan would ask the candidates:
“Will you work towards getting rid of Citizens United?”

In past statements, Mitt Romney has said he supports Citizens United but dislikes the super PACs it created. He favors overturning campaign finance laws, such as the McCain-Feingold Act, so that donors can give as much money to a campaign as they would like. Romney says this system would require immediate public disclosure of the donations.

Romney also agrees with the part of the Supreme Court’s ruling that says corporate spending is speech, protected by the first amendment. At the 2011 Iowa State Fair, while being heckled by protestors, Mitt Romney suggested that to fulfill promises regarding entitlement programs, the administration would have to “raise taxes on people.”

“Corporations!” a protester yelled, suggesting that taxes be raised on corporations.

“Corporations are people, my friend,” Romney replied, summarizing the implications of the Citizens United decision.

“No, they’re not!” someone else yelled.

“Of course they are,” Romney replied. “Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes?”

In an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd in December 2011, Mitt Romney clarified his position. “I think the Supreme Court’s decision was following their interpretation of the campaign finance laws that were written by Congress,” he said. “My own view is now we tried a lot of efforts to try and restrict what can be given to campaigns, we’d be a lot wiser to say you can give what you’d like to a campaign.”

In the same interview, he later said: “I’m not going to criticize the Supreme Court, I’m going to criticize Congress for passing a law that limits what campaigns can receive and opens the door to these super PACs and to PACs which have now been around for a while.”

Last month, Romney drew criticism from both sides when he contradicted his previous stance and said huge campaign donations to Democrats from teachers’ unions present a conflict of interest. “I believe that we simply can’t have a setting where the teachers unions are able to contribute tens of millions of dollars to the campaigns of politicians, and then those politicians, when elected, stand across from them at the bargaining table, supposedly to represent the interest of the kids,” Romney told Brian Williams.

In past statements, Barack Obama has voiced opposition to Citizens United.

On July 16, the day the DISCLOSE Act failed in the Senate, the Obama campaign released a statement in support of the Act. Describing the court’s decision on Citizens United, the president wrote, “The consequences of this decision are predictable. If we allow this practice to continue, special interests will have unprecedented influence over politicians. It’s wrong. It’s corrosive to our democracy, and it’s a threat to our future.”

On August 29, in an “Ask Me Anything” chat on Reddit, the president responded to a question about money in politics by affirming his commitment to overturning Citizens United. He wrote, “Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”

The president’s team had previously stated that Obama was in favor of an amendment to overturn Citizens United, but this position was muddied by the president’s endorsement last winter of the super PAC supporting his candidacy, Priorities USA Action.

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  • Anonymous

    How would you respond to people who consider this line of inquiry anti-Zionist in that US support for Israel depends on massive donations to members of Congress?

  • Pamela

    I don’t think Obama’s position “was muddied by his endorsement last winter of the super PAC supporting his candidacy.” (I hope you change that part. It implies there is some sort of inconsistency there.) If I were running for president, I would vehemently oppose the Citizens United decision, as I do now. However, knowing that my opponent would be or is spending staggering amounts on SuperPacs to tell lies about me, especially in crucial swing states, I’d want to be able to counteract those–indeed, I would need to be able to counteract those with my own SuperPac supporters. That’s the tragedy of this decision. It drives itself and no one can stop it unless the laws are changed. Even if candidates pledged not to endorse SuperPacs, those SuperPacs will take action on their own. And they’ll expect payback if their candidate is elected. Worst court decision ever in history.

  • Rich Stevenson

    This is the question I would like debate moderators PBS NewsHour host Jim Lehrer, ABC News chief foreign correspondent Martha Raddatz, and CBS Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer to ask all candidates in 2012. Request they ask the simple straight forward question:

    “Do you believe corporations should have Constitutional rights, and that campaign spending is exercising free speech under the Constitution? What would you do as President to further your position?”

    Citizens United is only a symptom of a decades old problem. Corporate personhood and treating money as speech are the things that need to be overturned. http://cs2pr.us/Rich/28th_Amendment.html#Voice . Amend the Constitution.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.elgee.5 Pat Elgee

    There is really less need for money in politics. With the internet, a candidate can post his or her beliefs, and we have seen evening news stations give it even more attention.
    We already have in the Constitution listed as grounds for impeachment, “bribery, treason, and other high crimes against the state.” All these “donations” are really bribes for favorable legislation.
    In answer to Romney’s question, “Where do you think it ($$$) goes?”
    My answers is “to the Caymen Islands and to your Swiss bank accounts.”
    More than a birth certificate, your bank book tells where your citizenship is.
    Money corrupts. I would rather a President owe thousands of people for their $20 contribution than a President owe an oil company $10,000,000.
    Nobody gives even the $20 without expectations.
    Money corrupts.

  • Anonymous

    Since the US Supreme Court has declared Corporations to be
    persons I felt that myself bring a Person should be taxed as a Corporation so I
    went and got an IRS Corporate tax form and hired a starving corporate tax
    lawyer to help me out with all the tax deductions..

    Transportation Deductions..Since I use the bus and Subway
    twice a day for 365 days (I work two jobs thus the 365 days)..This works out to
    365 times 2 times my daily expense..

    Meal Deductions–I have a burger with fries and a coffee
    twice a day (Again 365 days) I believe this would work out to 365 times 2 times
    meal expenses

    Advertising–I send out many Resumes by Email, phone and
    mail so I figure I should be able to claim my Internet, Phone and Mail charges
    as a legitimate expense

    Since I have collected receipts for all these transactions I
    have been forced to buy an extra envelope than the one I got so I am including the
    cost for the envelope and mailing charges

    It is great being a Corporation and I expect to get a large
    refund from the IRS which I intend to hide offshore..

    I invite all the working persons out there to fill in the
    expense blanks and get a Corporate tax form and join me in the Cayman Islands..

  • Retired PE

    Citizens’ United opened the floodgates of hell when it comes to the people having any say in our democracy. Now, CU is being used by CEOs to justify telling their employees how to vote with not so veiled threats that if they do not vote that way, they will be fired. Why cannot someone find one of those “precious, secretive” Supreme Court Justices who voted in favor of Citizens’ United and the one who shook his head and mouthed “no” at one of Obama’s state of the unions when Obama said that “CU was the worst decision made by the SC,” and ask those Justices what they think of their affirmative CU vote now because the ramifications of their vote are clearly being seen in this election.

  • Anonymous

    Neither one have any interests in overturning Citizens United. I realize that the president has spoke out against it, but I think he only does it for political gain and to excite the progressive base, although he is not a true progressive himself. http://www.firebrandcentral.com

  • Val Vadeboncoeur

    Will you work tirelessly to reinstitute Glass-Steagall?

    What will you do to lead the fight against global warming and climate change?

    Do you support the labeling of GMO products in this country?

    Will you agree to reveal to the American people where all the money that you and your party are spending in this election comes from?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jtitsworth Jan Titsworth

    I love this. May I share it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Teresa-Borden/100000381786924 Teresa Borden

    I think the person that replied to Romney’s assertion that corporations are people didn’t quite make the right argument. The problem is not that corporations aren’t people (they’re established by people, for the benefit of people, after all). The problem is HOW MANY people.

  • Paul Moser

    The question I would like to ask: Do you believe that the largest banks in the U.S., that are larger now than before the 2008 crisis, should be broken up, such that investment banking is separate from commercial banking, as it was before the repeal of Glass-Steagall? If not, what do you propose as a means of reining them in to protect the U.S. and world economies, other than the glacially slow and feeble activities being “pursued” now through Dodd-Frank?

  • Third Party

    And where do the other candidates stand?

  • Windyway

    It’s unreasonable to criticize Obama for using superpac money when he is.forced to compete with superpac money! In his state of the union address before congress right after the CU decision he foretold exactly what we are faced with. In my opinion Americans arent interested in overturning CU.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately it appears that this site didn’t think it important that we knew what the other choices we had on the ballot thought about this stuff, even thought their positions might be much closer to our own …

  • Anonymous

    You left the biggest issue of all unaddressed: can zero Coca Cola be as good as they claim? Israel. Sorry, that just slipped out. Israel. I mean, people worry about Israel the phosphoric acid and all, but cafeine is a Israel issue all its own, so what Israel does it help if you reduce the caloric intake?