Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton rolled out her plan to overhaul campaign finance laws Tuesday, courting the party’s liberals with a vow to break the “stranglehold that wealthy interests have over our political system.”
The former secretary of state’s proposals include neutering the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case that unleashed unlimited political spending by corporations, unions and other groups; imposing new rules to require corporations to disclose political spending; and public matching funds for small donations to campaigns.
“We have to end the flood of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political system, and drowning out the voices of too many everyday Americans,” Mrs. Clinton said in a statement. “Our democracy should be about expanding the franchise, not charging an entrance fee. It starts with overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and continues with structural reform to our campaign finance system so there’s real sunshine and increased participation.”
The plan was announced on the campaign website and accompanied by a video, which points out that the Citizen United case got its start when the federal government blocked the airing of “Hillary: The Movie,” an unflattering TV documentary about Mrs. Clinton that was paid for with corporate money and set to air before the 2008 primaries.
“They took aim at me, but they ended up damaging our entire democracy. We can’t let that happen again,” Mrs. Clinton says in the video.
Most of the measures would require action from parts of government other than the White House, such as the Supreme Court and Congress, and getting them to cooperate would be exceedingly difficult.
Nevertheless, the plan advanced Mrs. Clinton’s shift to left and her effort to placate the party’s liberal activists who remain suspicious of her ties to Wall Street and corporate America, as well as her benefiting from more that $15 million that so far has flowed to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing her run.
The plan also echoes calls by die-hard liberal Sen. Bernard Sanders, Mrs. Clinton’s chief rival for the nomination, for undoing Citizens United and instituting public financing of campaigns.
“I have not made many campaign promises so far, but let me repeat one I have made to you: No nominee of mine to the Supreme Court will get that nomination … unless they are loud and clear in saying they will vote to overturn this disastrous Citizens United decision,” Mr. Sanders said last week on the stump in Grinnell, Iowa, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent and avowed socialist, has refused to accept corporate donations or support from super PACs.
Mrs. Clinton has insisted that she is forced to play the super PAC game in order to compete, especially with potential Republican rivals in the general election.
The matching funds for small donors stopped short of the complete public financing of campaigns that has been advocated by Mr. Sanders. But Mrs. Clinton said that tying federal matching dollars to small donations would “amplify the voice of everyday Americans.”
Her protests against unaccounted money in political campaigns is not new. On the stump Mrs. Clinton routinely calls for overturning Citizens United, saying that she would even support a constitutional amendment to undo it.
Still, Mrs. Clinton’s complicated relationship with campaign finance reform was apparent when she touted her plan on Twitter, provoking a torrent of abuse and mockery from her Twitter followers.
“Hillary is committed to overturning Citizens United, the case that helped unleash secret money into U.S. elections,” declared her campaign’s official Twitter feed.
“@HillaryClinton stop taking corporate money now, set an example of your commitment by abiding by a promise to void corporate influence,” responded Twitter user @cfordesq.
Twitter user @DemocratMarine said: “@HillaryClinton At the same time she benefits from it!!! #HRC #Untrustworthy #CorporateOwned.”
The Clinton campaign said that the plan would reform campaign finance laws in three ways:
⦁ Mrs. Clinton would orchestrate the rollback of Citizens United by appointing Supreme Court justices who “value the right to vote over the right of billionaires to buy elections.” She also would push for a Constitutional amendment to allow what her campaign described as “common sense rules to protect against undue influence from special interests and restore the role of average voters in elections.”
⦁ She would end secret, unaccountable money in politics by pushing Congress to pass laws requiring public disclosure of significant political spending. Until Congress acts, she would support the Securities and Exchange Commission making rules that require publicly traded companies to disclose all political spending to their shareholders.
⦁ And she would establish a system of public financing of presidential and congressional candidates that provides matching funds for small donor contributions, a measure that the campaign said would “amplify the voices of everyday Americans” and incentivize candidate to spend more time engaging a broad cross section of constituents.