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Obama, on Reddit, proposed overturning Citizens United

August 29, 2012|By Christi Parsons
  • President Obama speaks during a campaign event in Charlottesville, Va.
President Obama speaks during a campaign event in Charlottesville, Va. (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images )

WASHINGTON -- In the middle of a rambling conversation on the website Reddit on Wednesday afternoon, President Obama proposed the idea of a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2-year-old Citizens United decision.

Obama suggested that an effort to amend the U.S. Constitution would “shine a spotlight” on the after-effects of the decision, which paved the way for today’s unlimited political expenditures by political action committees.

Asked by a member of the Reddit community what he would do to end the influence of money in politics, Obama wrote that, “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,” he said, “it can shine a spotlight of [sic] the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”

Super PACs are required to disclose their donors, but nonprofit advocacy groups that have dominated the 2012 race do not have to.

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The statement was a first for the president, a constitutional law professor who hasn’t spoken lightly on the subject of such amendments in the past. Aides have signaled that an amendment effort might be a good idea, especially given the unprecedented deluge of money now being spent against Obama as he seeks reelection.

But Obama chose to make news on the subject during an “Ask Me Anything” session on the popular website, where the subject of campaign spending and corruption is a favorite topic.

The pronouncement came in the middle of a herky-jerky exchange with questions that whipsawed from the subject of legalizing marijuana to the use of drones and closure of Guantanamo Bay prison and back again. Obama left many of them unanswered.

In other answers rendered with slightly lax capitalization and grammar, Obama revealed that Michael Jordan is his favorite basketball player, the White House will soon release the recipe for its “tasty” in-house beer and, when in D.C., he never misses dinner with his family.

When “suzmerk” asked about the “corrupting influence of money in politics,” though, Obama gave a serious answer.

“Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds barred flow of seven and eight figure checks, most undisclosed, into super-PACs,” the president wrote. “They fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.”

With that, Obama pronounced his first Reddit experience “NOT BAD!” and signed off, leaving hanging the question of whether he likes the toilet paper “facing out or facing in.”

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christi.parsons@latimes.com

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