Why Clinton now promises to introduce an anti-Citizens United amendment

Hillary Clinton announced her intention to introduce a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Citizens United ruling in the first 30 days of her presidency if elected.

Andrew Harnik/AP
Hillary Clinton, shown here speaking as Senator Tim Kaine (D) of Virginia watches during a rally Thursday, July 14, announced she would introduce an amendment in the first thirty days of her presidency if elected.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton announced Saturday that she planned on introducing a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's campaign-finance Citizens United decision within the first 30 days of her presidency. 

The announcement, made at the progressive Netroots Nation conference in St. Louis, is seen as a further attempt by Clinton to reach out to supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, which made campaign finance reform a major tenet of his campaign. 

"The amendment would allow Americans to establish common sense rules to protect against the undue influence of billionaires and special interests and to restore the role of average voters in elections," a Clinton spokesman said in statement, as Politico reported.

She first promised to make efforts to overturn Citizen's United in the fall of 2015, but laid out a more specific vision of how that would happen on Saturday. Along with the amendment to overturn Citizen's United within her first 30 days, Clinton plans on encouraging federal legislation to require disclosure of political spending and requiring publicly traded companies to communicate their political spending to shareholders, as CNN reported. She also said she would sign an executive order to require federal contractors to disclose political spending. 

"With this pledge, Hillary Clinton is making it clear that she understands the path to the White House depends on having both the right positions on money-in-politics reforms and a clear path of action," David Donnelly, the president and chief executive of the campaign-finance reform advocacy group Every Voice, told USA Today. 

This move is one more example of how the Sanders' campaign is influencing the Democratic party as it moves toward the general election. His influence can be seen in the Democratic party's platform, especially on the issues of a $15 minimum wage, marijuana policy, increased regulations on fracking, Medicare expansion and fighting student debt, as The Christian Science Monitor reported. 

During the primary season, Sanders strongly spoke out against the political system, and by default, Clinton, for revolving around large donations. He contrasted his campaign from Clinton's by saying he didn't raise money from "the billionaire class" and criticized her Wall Street speeches, as the New Yorker reported. 

Clinton was uncomfortable with campaign finance reform during the primary, as the New Yorker's Amy Davidson wrote in March, and needed to more clearly present herself on the issue that both Sanders and Trump were calling attention to. 

"Clinton needs to find her voice on the question of campaign finance—to talk more about money, not less—because valid doubts about the integrity of the system are fueling Trump’s campaign, too. That won’t change if Bernie is gone." 

Progressive activists say they are pleasantly surprised Clinton is pushing forward on campaign finance reform. 

"I don’t think there really was any thought or expectation that she would be carrying this issue forward," NetRoots Nation Executive Director Raven Brooks told Politico. "She’s adopted some of his other stuff. Notably some of the college and student debt things, but I thought campaign finance was going to be left behind." 

Clinton may appear to be an unlikely candidate to address the issue, as campaign finance reform expert and former Democratic presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig wrote for The Atlantic in May 2015. However, despite questions of whether the Clintons have used their influence for private financial gain and if policy has been altered to ensure private gain for the Clintons, Clinton's experience and knowledge of how Washington works may help her be the candidate to address this issue, Lessig wrote. 

Lessig made a parallel to President Lyndon Johnson, who worked hard to successfully passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 despite being an unlikely candidate to do so. 

"To earn the public’s trust now, Clinton must make the public funding of public elections the first issue in her presidency, just as Johnson made passing the Civil Rights Act the first issue of his administration," he wrote. 

Editor's Note: The original version of this story misstated David Donnelly's position. He is the president and chief executive of Every Voice.

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