Nancy Pelosi stumps for Jesse Jackson, condemns unfettered campaign spending

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House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press conference at PUSH headquarters to formally endorse Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in his primary re-election battle with former Rep. Debbie Halvorson. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

Campaigning for U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in Chicago Saturday, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House, condemned the influence of unfettered spending on campaigns by so-called SuperPACS and came down firmly in favor of the new federal policy requiring insurance companies cover contraceptives for women who work for religious-affiliated employers.

The House Democratic leader, who served as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2007 to 2010, argued that a landmark 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision threatens the integrity of public elections because it allows unlimited political expenditures by corporations and unions.

“Let the people decide an election, not the bankroll of a few people,” she said during a Women in Government forum at Northwestern University’s Thorne Auditorium in Streeterville.

As a start, tougher rules are needed to “shine the bright light of disclosure on some of the big money coming into campaigns,” said Pelosi, the first woman to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

She is backing proposed legislation requiring political action committees to disclose the names of top donors.

Despite the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling, Pelosi said she believes there’s burgeoning support for finance reforms.

“The public is ready for it. This has just gone too far,” said Pelosi, who has called for amending the U.S. Constitution to overturn the Citizens United decision. “I think we can all agree that isn’t the path we want to go down,” Pelosi said of unrestricted campaign expenditures by PACs and especially Super PACs.

Pelosi also said she supports President Barack Obama’s new policy requiring health insurance plans to cover contraceptive care for women if a religious-affiliated employer objects.

“You don’t need the boss to determine what insurance you’re going to get,” Pelosi said.

Earlier, Pelosi announced she is backing Jackson in his race against former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson.

“I’m really very, very proud of his leadership and his service in the Congress,” Pelosi said during a press conference on the South Side at Operation PUSH, which is run by Jackson’s father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Pelosi praised the work the younger Jackson has done on the House Appropriations Committee to secure federal funds for projects in Illinois and to help push through Obama’s national healthcare legislation.

She didn’t take media questions, nor did she address a pending investigation of Jackson by the House Ethics Committee over allegations some supporters offered political contributions to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in an attempt to get him to appoint Jackson to Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat.

Pelosi backed Halvorson as recently as 2010 when she was defeated by Republican Adam Kinzinger.

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