Jeb Bush criticizes Citizens United for not going far enough

Jeb Bush is currently being supported by the largest super PAC in American history. That super PAC is the largest in American history because of the great and absurd lengths Jeb Bush went to in order to fundraise for/strategize with it before he officially announced he was running for president.

So it was quite a twist when Jeb Bush called for abolishing super PACs earlier today. In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash released today, Jeb said that he would support a constitutional convention that adopt, among other things, campaign finance rules that would overturn Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and, by extension, eliminate super PACs. As he told Bash, “If I could do it all again I’d eliminate the Supreme Court ruling. This is a ridiculous system we have now where you have campaigns that struggle to raise money directly and they can’t be held accountable for the spending of the super PAC that’s their affiliate.”

First off, what? Jeb Bush is only still being taken remotely seriously as a candidate for president because his super PAC has a large enough war chest to, in theory, demolish all of his enemies. I say in theory because one of the greatest lessons we may take from the 2016 race is that no amount of money can save a fundamentally flawed candidate. Jeb Bush’s campaign spent $2,800 per vote in Iowa — more than the maximum amount an individual donor can make to a candidate per election cycle. So for Jeb to make a straight-faced critique of super PACs at all is to display a fascinating lack of self-awareness.

More importantly, though, Jeb Bush’s argument against super PACs and Citizens United is even worse than his position itself. Bush’s core complaint is that the FEC’s flimsy rules prohibiting coordination between super PACs and campaigns make life too difficult for the campaigns, whose abilities to fundraise and strategize are hindered by their super PACs’ activities. But if that’s true, then it would actually be easier to extend the Citizens United ruling and eliminate contribution limits to campaigns altogether. Jeb, among others, has already flubbed the distinction between the two entities, and their fundraising numbers are already more or less assumed to be in the same piles of cash supporting their respective candidates. So if the firewall is annoying, inefficient and arbitrary, as Bush seems to be arguing, why keep it around?

In other words, Bush’s argument isn’t that Citizens United went too far, but rather that it didn’t go far enough.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • marknc

    I think he’s probably neither. More likely, he is well aware that he can spout total bullshit like this and come across to the average voter as “thinking about the little guy”. He knows that the press will hear this total pile of crap and not mention that he’s abused any pretense at a limit on coordination or cash flow. He knows that Fox News and all Republican pundits will praise him for a bold move – knowing they are lying too.

    I think he is simply using the crappy press knowing they are a crappy press. AND he’ll almost certainly get away with it.

  • 2karmanot

    What? Seriously? lil jeb found some energy? Did Momma Babs give him the ‘look?’

  • The_Fixer

    At this point, one has to wonder: Is Jeb! completely stupid or just oblivious?

    He comes from a family with a rotten political reputation, mostly earned by his older brother. He’s polling in the single digits, has to ask for applause from his meager crowds. He’s given nothing compelling in the way of policy proposals. And now he wants bigger and better Super-PACs so that guys like him can piss away even more money on the way to dropping out of the race.

    Hell, I don’t have to make a choice as to whether he is stupid of oblivious – he’s both.

  • Outspoken1

    I may be incorrect, but don’t the candidates get to keep campaign money (not separate super-pac $$$, but direct to their campaign) is they end the campaign or lose?

  • We saw this in California recently and now it’s playing out nationwide. Some of these GOP candidates have plenty of funding but the voters aren’t taking to them. Yes, money helps and not having money really hurts but a well funded dud of a candidate is still a turd.

  • I just heard an interview with John McCain in which he mentioned that there are candidates still in the race on the GOP side only because of Citizens United. Normally candidates polling in the low single digits by this point would have had their funding dry up. But now there are several who are getting big money even though they don’t have any traction and they might still be in for awhile longer.

    Also, I don’t know why Jeb is so bothered. The supposed independence of the superPacs and the campaigns is a joke anyway.

  • DoverBill

    I used to think: “Give me unlimited money and I can get anybody elected.”

    Not so sure any more.

  • You said it, Jon: No amount of money can help a fundamentally flawed candidate win support.

    Sure, a lack of funding is a problem. But when you’ve got what is essentially unlimited cash anyway and it still doesn’t buy support in double-digits, the problem isn’t the money. It’s the candidate.

  • quax

    Give him a break – nobody likes paperwork. Such a hassle. Jeb! will probably have to set up another PAC just to afford the admin staff.

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