WASHINGTON - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., promises to put political reform high on the agenda if Democrats retake the U.S. House.
In a last-minute unscheduled speech to the United Auto Workers legislative conference, meeting in Washington on Feb. 6, the veteran lawmaker from San Francisco said she wants to overturn the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that produced a tsunami of corporate campaign cash that year and in 2012.
The justices, in a partisan 5-4 vote, ruled that free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment includes unlimited spending and contributions by corporations and wealthy individuals. They tossed out virtually all campaign finance limits. But Citizens United also opened the way for unions to communicate with non-members, and labor successfully did so in 2012.
Unions, led by the Communications Workers, have pushed ever since for a new constitutional amendment saying corporations do not have free speech rights where politics are concerned. In her talk to the UAW, Pelosi endorsed that amendment.
"We need to take back our democracy," she declared.
But since amending the constitution is a long process full of hurdles, Pelosi also endorsed other political reforms. The hundreds of delegates responded enthusias-tically, said National Writers Union/UAW member Ann Hoffman, legislative director for Unite before it merged with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees.
The high court also said the campaign finance committees it unleashed did not have to disclose their backers. For the most part, corporations that backed the GOP in 2012 - whose dollars overwhelmed the political system - kept mum. Some individual donors, such as Radical Right Wing billionaires Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas and the Koch brothers of Kansas City, did not. They gave millions and were open about it - and the Right Wing policies, including anti-worker anti-union policies, they wanted in return.
So another reform Pelosi backed is the Disclose Act, to force the new campaign finance committees to disclose their donors and amounts given, immediately upon receipt. Democrats pushed the Disclose Act last year, but a GOP Senate filibuster threat quashed it there, and it never even surfaced in the Republican-run House.
Pelosi controlled the House as speaker from Jan. 2007-Jan. 2011, but never brought up either piece of legislation. The Democrats now trail the GOP by 17 seats out of 435. Labor supports such campaign finance reforms, but until they're enacted, it's trying to use the current and financially skewed system to its best advantage, union leaders have said.
Photo: Stock image of Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Talk Radio News Service // CC 2.0