Groups Urge Candidates Be Questioned About Money in Politics During Debate

Oct 3, 2012

During tonight’s presidential debate, citizen groups are calling for the issue of campaign financing to be raised to candidates Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

Several grassroots organizations are engaged in a campaign directed at the moderator of tonight’s presidential debate PBS News Anchor Jim Leher, to ask the candidates about the massive increase in campaign contributions from corporate SuperPACS and the influx of money in politics. Last week, a coalition of organizations including DEMOS, Free Speech for People, Avaaz’s Elections not Auctions, and unPAC delivered over 40,000 signatures from an online petition to Lehrer.

Co-founder and Campaign Director of unPAC Matthew Palevsky said that even though the news media has been following the issue money in politics closely, the candidates have been largely quiet on the subject.

Matthew Palevsky said that if candidates did not address the issue further it could spell out “political suicide.”

unPAC and the other groups point to polling those shows a majority of Americans want to limit the amount of money that corporations, unions, and other organizations can spend on campaigns. An Associated Press-National Constitution Center Poll released in September showed that 83% of Americans are seeking fundraising limits. That number includes 81% of Republicans, 78% of independents, and 85% of Democrats.

Many point to the  Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United Decision as the go-ahead for the creation of independent SuperPACs, which allows for unlimited contributions for political candidates, evident in this year’s deluge of political attack ads broadcast to voters.

John Bonifaz, Executive Director of Free Speech for People, said that both Mitt Romney and President Obama have briefly touched upon the power of money in politics while on the campaign trail, but it’s up to Lehrer to raise the issue during tonight’s debate to get them to address it further. Both candidates have raised money with Super PACs.

So far, the legislatures of eight states have already passed resolutions calling on Congress to amend the Constitution to reverse the effects of the Citizens United devision, including Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland, California, and New Mexico. Voters in Colorado and Montana face a ballot question on the issue on election day.

Bonifaz said however that the issue goes beyond Citizens United or a Constitutional Amendment.

The groups will continue to gather support for change until election day, and afterwards.