This seems to have passed mostly unnoticed, but if Mitt Romney meant what he said on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown this morning, it’s a very big deal. In an interview with Chuck Todd, he seemed to say that he thinks there should be no limits of any kind on the amount of money people can contribute to political campaigns:
The context: Earlier this week, Romney said he opposed the existence of so-called Super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts in contributions of any size, and spend all the money on behalf of a candidate, provided there’s no coordination between the candidate and the PAC. Pressed further on this by Todd, who asked him for his views on Citizens United and the landscape of PACs it has created, Romney answered:
“I think the Supreme Court’s decision was following their interpretation of the campaign finance laws that were written by Congress. My own view is now we tried a lot of efforts to try and restrict what can be given to campaigns, we’d be a lot wiser to say you can give what you’d like to a campaign. They must report it immediately. And the creation of these independent expenditure committees that have to be separate from the candidate, that’s just a bad idea.”
If this is really Romney’s position, it’s very significant. (A Romney spokesperson didn’t immediately return an email asking for clarification.) A longer version of the video is right here; in it Romney goes on to criticize Congress for “passing a law that limits what campaigns can receive and opens the door to these Super PACs.”
Romney’s comments are bit confused, but it seems clear he is saying that we should do away with Super PACs, which can receive contributions of any size, and allow such unlimited contributions to be funneled straight to the campaigns themselves. Under this scenario, that billionaire casino magnate who was recently mulling whether to give $20 million to a Super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich could simply hand that sum or more directly to his campaign.
It’s unclear whether Romney thinks corporations should also have this right — he should be asked for clarification on this point — but either way, what Romney seems to be proposing would enhance the influence of the wealthy to an untold degree. As Ian Millhiser, who first caught this exchange, points out, it could also open the door to a kind of system fueled by what might be termed legalized bribery.
“This is more radical than Citizens United,” David Donnelly of Public Campaign Action Fund told me when I asked for his reaction. “It means that if he is president he will appoint Supreme Court justices that will eviscerate any ability to regulate campaign finance.”
While it’s true that Romney wants donors disclosed, this doesn’t constitute regulation; it just means the public would be aware of who is giving unregulated sums in huge amounts to campaigns.
“This would set up a pipeline from Wall Street directly to campaigns,” Donnelly concluded. “This is the one percent’s wet dream.”