The Sad Spectacle of Obama's Super PAC
Robert B. Reich
How many billionaires does it take to buy a presidential election? We're about to find out. The 2012 campaign is likely to be a battle between one group of millionaires and billionaires supporting President Obama and another group supporting his
Perhaps this was the inevitable result of the
Sadly, last week, the president caved. He endorsed a super PAC set up to funnel unrestricted campaign money from fat cats into his campaign. And he's made a total mockery of the Court's naive belief that super PACs would remain separate from individual campaigns, by allowing campaign manager
Why did he do it? His campaign aides explained that they had been surprised by how easily
I don't believe Obama's refusal to play the billionaire election game would have been unilateral disarmament. Obama has proven himself a hugely successful fundraiser, especially with small donors. He cobbled together an unprecedented
Obama could have highlighted the starkest choice facing America in a century -- an economy and a democracy dominated by great wealth, or an economy and a democracy that work for everyone. What better way to dramatize this choice than by offering America a choice between a political campaign financed by millions of small donors, and a Republican campaign underwritten by a handful of America's most powerful and privileged?
Romney's friends on
Had Obama taken a strong stand against this, my guess is that average Americans would have flooded the Obama campaign with enough small donations to overwhelm Romney's billionaire friends. The people would have been given a chance to be heard, and the people would prevail.
But we'll never know. Now that Obama has decided to embrace super PACs, big money is flowing as never before.
The president has called Citizens United a threat to democracy. If he is re-elected, and he's sincere about his concerns, he should go to bat for a system of public financing that will make it possible for candidates to raise enough money from small donors and matching public funds that they won't need to rely on a few billionaires pumping unlimited sums into super PACs.
In addition, he should fight for public disclosure of all donations, including those to super PACs. He should commit himself to nominating
And I hope he shows the public that, despite support from some of the fattest cats in the land, he'll still fight for a tax system that requires millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share of the nation's bills.
That's exactly the problem. When a relative handful of super-rich Democrats want fight a relative handful of super-rich Republicans, the rest of us are left on the sidelines. And if we're sidelined in the election, we could be left on sidelines of our democracy.
As the great jurist and
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