Questions President Obama and Gov. Romney Should Be Asked At the Presidential Debate About Money in Politics
By: David Donnelly and Adam Smith
President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney will face off in their first debate on Wednesday at the University of Denver, moderated by PBS’s Jim Lehrer. The questions will focus on the economy, healthcare, governing, and the role of government.
Here are five questions a piece that Mr. Lehrer could ask each candidate related to these issues.
Questions for Romney
- Governor Romney, you and your party have criticized President Obama for the Solyndra controversy and the “crony capitalism” you allege was behind it. How would you and a Romney administration ensure that no special treatment is given to the donors and bundlers who have raised millions of dollars for your campaign?
- Governor Romney, you’ve evolved on campaign finance issues. In your Senate campaign against Ted Kennedy, you proposed abolishing PACs. When running for governor, you proposed taxing donations to create a fund to level the playing field between candidates. During this campaign, you’ve suggested that campaign contributions to candidates be unlimited and that we should do away with super PACs. More recently you’ve expressed interest in the presidential public financing program. If you could wave a magic wand and create a campaign finance system that’s fair for all Americans, what would it be?
- Governor Romney, you have said that President Obama’s decision to forgo public matching funds is the reason you have to spend so much time raising money. Would you support modernizing the presidential public financing system to ensure it’s a viable option in future elections?
- Governor Romney, last week you said that teachers unions should not be able to donate to political campaigns. But previously, you’ve said there should be no limits on what can be given to political campaigns. Do you believe that a person like casino mogul Sheldon Adelson should be able to donate tens of millions to your campaign, but teachers or other public employees shouldn’t have that same right to come together to make donations?
- Governor Romney, your campaign and super PAC have raised an astounding amount of money from Wall Street – from hedge fund and private equity CEOs and bank executives, and have received millions more bundled by lobbyists for the financial sector. What does this tell Americans about how you’d govern?
Questions for Obama
- President Obama, the Wall Street Journal reported that a Hollywood donor who's raised millions of dollars for your campaign and super PAC may have received special treatment in the White House. What policies will you propose in your second term to ensure these people aren’t getting special treatment simply because of their campaign fundraising?
- President Obama, you created controversy when you criticized the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that allowed unlimited corporate and union spending in our elections during in your State of the Union address in 2010. In your 2008 election, you said you wanted no outside spending on your behalf. Now you’ve given your blessing to super PACs on the Democratic side. Have you accepted that outside spending is just a feature of American elections that can’t be addressed?
- President Obama, you’ve instituted a set of rules and practices in your Administration regarding meetings with, and donations from, lobbyists. But a poll out this week says that Americans still believe neither party deserves any trust in their willingness to deal with corruption in Washington. Were your proposals too small to make a difference, or too narrowly focused on lobbyists? What will you do in this area to rebuild trust in government?
- President Obama, you sponsored Fair Elections-style small donor public financing as a State Senator and as U.S. Senator. Your campaigns have shown a tremendous ability to raise small donations from millions of Americans. Is this the type of policy and practice – lots of small donations matched by public funds – that you’d like to see for congressional and presidential elections?
- In 2008, you received a significant amount of money from Wall Street interests. It’s no secret that the same interests – in some cases, the same people – have switched sides in this election because of statements and policies made by you and your administration. What does this tell Americans about the pressures of governing after taking large contributions from special interests and what does it tell us about how you’d approach governing if you won a second term when you wouldn’t have to raise another dime for your own re-election again?