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Barack Obama Signs STOCK Act, Omits Citizens United Comments

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BARACK OBAMA CITIZENS UNITED
President Barack Obama signs the STOCK Act to restrict the ability of members of Congress to trade stocks based on insider information. At the signing ceremony the president made further calls to reduce the influence of money in politics. | AP

WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday morning, President Barack Obama signed the STOCK Act, a bill meant to curb potential insider trading of stocks by members of Congress.

"There is obviously more that we can do to close the deficit of trust," said the president at the bill-signing.

Obama, who strongly criticized the influence of money in his 2008 election campaign, proceeded to call for further reforms to limit the role of money in politics.

He echoed his 2012 State of the Union address, which included a call to pass the STOCK Act. The act bans campaign bundlers from being registered lobbyists and makes it illegal for lawmakers to own stocks that could be affected by legislative votes. Both seem like small fixes for a president who previously called for large-scale changes to reduce the influence of money in politics.

But the president did not call for passage of the DISCLOSE Act or any fix to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. The DISCLOSE Act would plug disclosure loopholes opened up by the Citizens United ruling that led to a massive increase in undisclosed election spending by corporations, unions and wealthy individuals. A previous version of the bill, which received strong support from the White House, nearly passed Congress in 2010 but fell one vote short of clearing a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

In his 2010 State of the Union, the president bemoaned the Supreme Court's ruling: "Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign companies -- to spend without limit in our elections. Well, I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong."

That critical language continued through the 2010 election year, but has fallen largely silent since.

John Wonderlich, the policy director of the Sunlight Foundation, attended Wednesday to celebrate the signing of the STOCK Act. "We could use a little of the 2010 Obama now, railing against the corrosive effects of unlimited or secret money flowing into elections," he told The Huffington Post.

Criticism of unlimited and secret money from Obama has decreased markedly this year. Some noted the lack of a statement on Citizens United in his State of the Union. Failing to include any comment on the expected flood of independent group spending in the 2012 election was followed quickly by the Obama campaign's endorsement of an unlimited money super PAC -- Priorities USA Action -- organized on the president's behalf by a former White House aide to help him win reelection.

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