© Josh Sager – July 2016
Author Note: While I am critical of Hillary in this article and will fight her on the issues wherever we disagree, I will vote for her as the lesser of two evils. Trump is simply too dangerous, bigoted, and irrational to be president and all responsible Americans must do everything in their power to stop him.
Hillary Clinton has just promised that, within the first 30 days of her administration, she will propose a constitutional amendment that overturns Citizens United. If she were to deliver on this, it would make her one of the best modern presidents and the person who leads the fight to save our democracy and implement progressive policies across the board.
Sadly, however, Hillary’s promise is not only impossible to achieve (good luck getting 2/3 majorities in both the House and Senate to agree that they are being corrupted) but completely unbelievable given her past rhetoric and actions. Hillary is arguably the greatest beneficiary of the legal corruption that Citizens United unleashed, having raised over $300 million through super-PACs, over $30 million of which came from the banking industry alone.
While Hillary supporters will claim that she is just playing the game and is willing to work within the corrupt system so that she can reform it from within, this is betrayed by her primary rhetoric. During the primary election—when Hillary was running against Bernie’s small donations campaign—she repeatedly argued that big money does not corrupt politicians and that even suggesting that campaign donations affects her is an “artful smear.” Many Hillary proxies, including Barney Frank (now a bank board member and author of articles like this: “Yes, I Took Bank Money. And It Made Me a Better Regulator”) and Howard Dean (now a health insurance lobbyist), have also supported this corruption-denying argument.
A second line of defense for Hillary’s connection to big money is often the assertion that nobody can point to a single quid pro quo between Hillary and a donor. This is simply false, and anybody who wants an example of this can look to the case of Rajiv Fernando. Fernando is a major Clinton donor (both to her campaign and her family foundation) from the banking industry who Hillary appointed to the vital Security Advisory Board (which fights nuclear proliferation and arms dealing), despite the fact that he has no qualifications. Several members of the board were so disturbed by his appointment that they leaked the story to the press, leading the State Department to remove him within a single day to avoid the scandal.
If we are to believe her primary rhetoric on this issue, we can only assume that Hillary doesn’t think that money in politics is a real issue and that campaign finance deregulation doesn’t breed corruption—in this, she agrees with the right wing majority who decided Citizens United. If this is the case, she is simply making an empty and impossible promise to attract anti-corruption voters without any real intent to follow through. She isn’t going to use all of her political capital, anger her political allies, and alienate the entire donor class to pursue an issue she doesn’t actually believe in.
Conversely, if we believe her current call to eliminate money in politics, she needs to explain why she has taken so much money from corporations and has even helped these donors dramatically increase their reach into the DNC through joint fundraising. Even if Hillary believes herself to be exceptional and immune to moneyed corruption she has worked to increase the amount of money other Democrats take from these interests, thus made it even harder to unify her own party against money in politics.
At the end of the day, Hillary’s promise to repeal Citizens United brings to mind one of Obama’s attack ads against her in 2008, during which he narrates: “Hillary Clinton. She’ll say anything and change nothing.” Regardless of whether she is being honest or simply pandering, she will not deliver on this particular campaign promise.
That said, there is a real chance to repeal Citizens United through amending the Constitution, and the best part is that there is no need to swim through the corruption of D.C. to get there. Several groups are working towards an Article V Convention, would force an amendment process to begin even if corrupt politicians refuse to act. Calling a convention requires 34 states to pass an official declaration for a limited convention on the issue of money in politics while implementing the amendment produced by this convention would require 38 states to ratify it. This is a long process, but it isn’t dependent upon any one powerful figure (e.g. a president, Speaker of the House, Senate President, or SCOTUS justice) and is the most reliable way to move forward.
Contact one of these groups to get involved: