President and Congress Continue to Respond to Citizens United

Earlier this week Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, wrote a blog post defending President Obama's call for legislation restricting foreign corporations from getting involved in federal elections. As evidence, Eisen references news reports that discuss a lobbying campaign on behalf of subsidiaries of foreign corporations. "All of this demonstrates why the President was right to criticize the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United – and why he is also right to call for reform of the lobbying laws, including tough new rules on lobbyist disclosure, that build on the dramatic steps he has already taken in his first year in office to change Washington."

"A strong legislative response is required given the stakes: Americans' control over their own electoral process. That is why the President is working with Congressional leadership to move rapidly to pass legislation that protects our politics from undue special interest influence."

Congressional action has already begun, with ten bills introduced in the House and two in the Senate in response to Citizens United. The Senate Rules Committee held a hearing yesterday (Feb. 2). In the House, the Committee on House Administration and the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties both held hearings.

Further, beyond the subject of foreign corporations, comprehensive lobbying reform is tied into responding efficiently to Citizens United. Eisen notes that during the State of the Union, Obama called for other proposed changes. These include limits on the contributions lobbyists may bundle or make to candidates, increased lobbyist disclosure rules, and online disclosure of all earmark requests. This White House fact sheet has some more details.

The President's efforts are commendable, and there is still work to be done on needed transparency. However, a column in the Washington Examiner notes a bit of hypocrisy. "More than 40 former lobbyists work in senior positions in the Obama administration, including three Cabinet secretaries and the CIA director. Yet in his State of the Union address, Obama claimed, "We've excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs."

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