Pushing constitutional amendments tends to be the province of Republican presidents: to mandate balanced budgets, for instance, or to make abortion illegal. But President Obama has been both speaking privately and flirting openly with the notion of amending the Constitution. His goal would be to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens Uniteddecision and get the biggest-money checks out of politics. Obama advisers have been edging up to this for months. In February, urging donors to open their checkbooks to Obama-supporting super PACs, campaign manager Jim Messina said that “the president favors action — by constitutional amendment, if necessary — to place reasonable limits on all such spending.”
Senior adviser David Axelrod took it a step further in June. “What the Supreme Court did with the Citizens United ruling, opening the door to this unlimited spending . . . is taking us back to the Gilded Age. We’re back to the robber barons trying to take over the government,” Axelrod said. “I hope that one of the things we can do when we win this election is use whatever tools are available, up to and including a constitutional amendment, to turn this back.”
Then came Obama himself. In the midst of the Republican convention, in a question-and-answer session with the Web site Reddit that received more notice for his promise to unveil the White House recipe for honey ale, the president was asked what he thought should be done about the avalanche of unlimited donations. “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; they fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens,” he wrote.