Obama — and Romney — fooling around on big money

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Growing up, every child learns this simple truth. We take promises less than seriously when the person making them has failed to deliver on promises in the past.

That’s pretty much where I am today with President Obama’s promise earlier this week to support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get control of the flood of big money into our elections.

The President talked a good game in 2008, promising to work in the White House on a plan to fix our broken system of public financing for presidential campaigns. But as President, he just hasn’t delivered on that pledge, and this year he’s seeking a second term by again opting not to accept public funds and chasing after big dollar gifts wherever he can find them.

So I’m not much encouraged by the President’s comments on Wednesday, during an appearance in Charlottesville, Va., that “we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United.”

Seriously consider? C’mon man! As Common Cause President Bob Edgar observed today, the process already is well underway. It’s time to stop considering and get on board.

State and local government leaders across the country have passed dozens of resolutions urging Congress to pass an amendment that will allow us to impose sensible controls on political money. With any luck, voters in Montana and Colorado will be able this fall to send instructions to pass an amendment directly to their representatives in Washington. And through campaigns like Common Cause’s Amend 2012 effort, there’s hope that voters elsewhere will have a chance to send similar messages next year and beyond.

That’s the kind of action we need if we’re going to preserve “government of, by and for the people” and stop big money from taking control of our country.

If he really supports reform, the President can offer up some language for an amendment and send it to Congress. And he can make campaign reform a central part of his reelection campaign – not just something he mentions in passing now and again.

The same goes for Mitt Romney. The GOP nominee said last Sunday that he hopes to break free of the big money chase and rely on public funds to run in 2016 – assuming he wins this year. But Romney’s party platform embraces unlimited political spending and anonymous donors are putting hundreds of millions of dollars behind him right now, so there’s no reason to think he’s any more serious about reform now than Obama was in 2008.

The country deserves better – from both candidates.

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