Obama's "Legacy of Inaction" on Campaign Finance Reform Exposed

As the 2016 presidential campaign season hits full stride with hundreds of millions of dollars pouring in from outside funding groups, democracy reformers are zeroing in on the one person they say could stem the flow of money into electoral politics: U.S. President Barack Obama.

“President Obama has no one to blame but himself for his failing legacy on money in politics,” said Kurt Walters, campaign manager at Rootstrikers, a project of the national grassroots group Demand Progress that focuses on the corrupting influence of anonymous, unlimited political spending. “It’s cynical even by Washington standards—Obama has said for six years that he’s outraged at Citizens United but hasn’t bothered to do anything to combat the decision’s effects.”

Both on the campaign trail and in the halls of Congress, Obama has repeatedly denounced the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling. During his 2010 State of the Union address, Obama lambasted the justices over the decision, saying that it would “open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.”

However, according to a report (pdf) published by Rootstrikers on Tuesday, the president has failed to live up to this rhetoric and instead has only enabled the unprecedented flow of money into the current election cycle. 

Among the measures within the president’s power that he has so far avoided, the study notes, would be an executive order requiring “large federal contractors—including 70 percent of the Fortune 100—to disclose their political spending.”

Further, last year Obama signed into law a budget bill that included a provision allowing a six-fold increase in the contribution limits donors can contribute to political parties.