January 23rd, 2010
11:21 AM ET
5 years ago

Obama hammers Supreme Court ruling

(CNN) - In his weekly radio and video address Saturday, President Obama sharply criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this week easing some campaign finance regulations.

"This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy," Obama says in the address. "It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way – or to punish those who don’t."

Full transcript of address after the jump

One of the reasons I ran for President was because I believed so strongly that the voices of everyday Americans, hardworking folks doing everything they can to stay afloat, just weren’t being heard over the powerful voices of the special interests in Washington. And the result was a national agenda too often skewed in favor of those with the power to tilt the tables.

In my first year in office, we pushed back on that power by implementing historic reforms to get rid of the influence of those special interests. On my first day in office, we closed the revolving door between lobbying firms and the government so that no one in my administration would make decisions based on the interests of former or future employers. We barred gifts from federal lobbyists to executive branch officials. We imposed tough restrictions to prevent funds for our recovery from lining the pockets of the well-connected, instead of creating jobs for Americans. And for the first time in history, we have publicly disclosed the names of lobbyists and non-lobbyists alike who visit the White House every day, so that you know what’s going on in the White House – the people’s house.

We’ve been making steady progress. But this week, the United States Supreme Court handed a huge victory to the special interests and their lobbyists – and a powerful blow to our efforts to rein in corporate influence. This ruling strikes at our democracy itself. By a 5-4 vote, the Court overturned more than a century of law – including a bipartisan campaign finance law written by Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold that had barred corporations from using their financial clout to directly interfere with elections by running advertisements for or against candidates in the crucial closing weeks.

This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy. It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way – or to punish those who don’t. That means that any public servant who has the courage to stand up to the special interests and stand up for the American people can find himself or herself under assault come election time. Even foreign corporations may now get into the act.

I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.

All of us, regardless of party, should be worried that it will be that much harder to get fair, common-sense financial reforms, or close unwarranted tax loopholes that reward corporations from sheltering their income or shipping American jobs off-shore.

It will make it more difficult to pass commonsense laws to promote energy independence because even foreign entities would be allowed to mix in our elections.

It would give the health insurance industry even more leverage to fend off reforms that would protect patients.

We don’t need to give any more voice to the powerful interests that already drown out the voices of everyday Americans.

And we don’t intend to. When this ruling came down, I instructed my administration to get to work immediately with Members of Congress willing to fight for the American people to develop a forceful, bipartisan response to this decision. We have begun that work, and it will be a priority for us until we repair the damage that has been done.

A hundred years ago, one of the great Republican Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, fought to limit special interest spending and influence over American political campaigns and warned of the impact of unbridled, corporate spending. His message rings as true as ever today, in this age of mass communications, when the decks are too often stacked against ordinary Americans. And as long as I’m your President, I’ll never stop fighting to make sure that the most powerful voice in Washington belongs to you.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (138 Responses)
  1. Bill

    If politicians couldn't be bought, this wouldn't be such a problem.
    Sadly, they can be and have been for years.

    January 23, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  2. DonBeal

    Big companies must be salivating at this ruling by the Supreme Court. Here is what I would do if I were a CEO at a big company. I would go to a small state like Maine, where I live, and I would pour money into electing a Senator of my choice and I would win. Now the Senator would be from Maine in name only. In reality that Senator would be the Senator from Exxon Mobil. And that is where we are headed.

    January 23, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  3. stevegee

    Hammer all you want Obama, all you're doing is nailing yourself down as a Marxist.

    The ruling from the Supreme Court protects Freedom of Speech. The so-called "rules" for campaign contribution gave Liberals (and their Union buddies) an unfair advantage in elections.

    Now, everyone and any entity can openly support whomever they want for elections. Can't wait for the primaries and November ... and conservative victories across the country!

    January 23, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  4. Larry S

    Could this mean it will show more of the true donors to Obama. He had the biggest donations in history and he still has not stated where all of the money did come from for his campaign. Most of his complains are without much truth . . . of course, comming from oBLAHma what else would you expect????

    January 23, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  5. katiec

    Big business already has too much influence through lobbyists, special interests etc. The Supreme Court has given them permission to control elections determine who gets elected.
    This is one of the worse offensives against the American people I have ever seen. Somehow this has to be overturned.
    And, what a disappointment that people who we are supposed to respect, trust, who have the power of so many decisions in their hands, have chosen party over what is right. It is a disgrace.

    January 23, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  6. Bugl3t

    Well, it's finally here – Big Brother. The clueless have always thought it was about big government, but the truth is that it's the corporate entity.

    They have ALL your data and now they've boldly opted to buy the Supreme Court decision so they can buy government and politicians openly.

    How did this happen? Well, they got the money from Republicans who cut taxes for corporations and rich owners and deregulated banks and wall street and gave Halleburton and the likes two wars to drain all the money from our economy.

    And they used the truly uniformed, illiterate southern white males and their subjugated spouses to do it by pretending they were Christian and moral when in fact, that's the last thing they care about.

    January 23, 2010 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  7. James Brooklyn N.Y.

    Now we all are going to have to work for wal-mart. America will become a wasteland of huge stores and poor people. The only way to make good money will be in drugs and prostitution.

    January 23, 2010 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  8. Jerry

    Who did the health care industry donate the most money ? why the democrats of course. Obama=Failure of America

    January 23, 2010 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  9. Dan

    Obama was against non-public funding, before he realized he can get from the foolish followers more money and did not sign for it after telling McCain he will. Now he wants us to believe he was never against special interest funding candidates!
    What a flip flopper... my goodness where are the principles?!?!

    January 23, 2010 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  10. Mary in carmel

    Those defending this outragous ruling represent yet another inexplicable facet of American public life. Ordinary folks who are in dire straits, being bambozzeled every minute by corporations and politicians, splitting their hair in defense of the very people who are ripping them of their livelihood. The tea party express members are paying out of their own pockets and taking money that can help their children to go to DC to protest a healthcare bill. An act that can only benefit large for profit insurance company fat cats who are getting enriched by denying sick people much needed therapies. Wow what words can describe this

    January 23, 2010 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  11. wil

    It really doesn't matter who wins in November, both the Democrats adn Republican are leading this country to ruin. There isn't much time left.

    January 23, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  12. Andrew

    Hmm, so this is from the guy who broke his pledge to accept public funding of his own presidential campaign...

    January 23, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. John D.

    Obama is really worried now. He might have to disclose where the money is coming from for his campaign in 2012! I wish I knew where the 2008 money came from. But being the coward he is he would not/will not disclose it.

    January 23, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  14. Wisconsonite

    TO: stevegee January 23rd, 2010 11:33 am ET

    Hammer all you want Obama, all you're doing is nailing yourself down as a Marxist

    Marxist?? I doubt you even know the meaning of the word.

    So I guess you must like the idea that big corporation can buy the officials you vote for, presuming of course you even bother to vote??!! And then Congress, voted into office by the People and who are supposed to be working for the People, well they in turn make laws which benefit ONLY big corporation who in turn put the screws to the PEOPLE even more. I guess you must like the deals that go on which benefit only big corporation & the politicians who are getting paid off otherwise you'd be able to put aside your irrational hatred of our President and stand WITH him in this fight!

    January 23, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  15. Stephen

    Larry S!!!
    You're the reason people hate America. You disgust me. Take a long walk...

    January 23, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  16. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    All elected republicans should wear company logos of the business that have bribed them.

    January 23, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  17. Abe

    The Supreme Court ruling on campaign fiance regulation is a travesty. It seems we are giving big corporations, lobbyists decide the outcome of our elections. I think the Supreme Court judges that voted for the regulation are taking away the rights of the ordinary American to participate in an election. It is a slap on the face that the small contributors will be shut out by big companies and special interests. The Republicans want small government but they are the once that have the money and there party driven by big special interests. They want to buy elections instead of winning them out right. This is a way to shut the average American from voting and feel that there votes do not count. Washington should not decide for us they are there to work for us. This ruling simply shuts out the average American inspired to enter politics that he has no chance without the backing of big interests, lobbyists and contributors. What we need is honest elections and the deserved one wins irregardless of money. I honestly think the Supreme Court should be a ten year term. Change is good and brings in fresh ideas to accommodate our ever changing dynamic of our society. If we elect for a new president every four years, the same should apply for the judges. I have a high respect for there intellect but question this recent decision to give power to have's and the have nots. God Bless.

    January 23, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  18. virginia nielsen

    This is a typical Republican action !!! Money from the Corporations to elect their puppets... like in the Bush era and that's why we're in this big mess after 8 years of big companies ruling !!! That's the way that Bush/Chenney got elected thightly twice, they didn't do like Obama, with donations from the american people.

    January 23, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  19. Mlhall

    When the dust clear President Obama will not be the one with his hand in the cookies jar. Why is every one want to see President Obama donors? There was a lot of people running ask for their donors to.

    January 23, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  20. JT the Show Me State College Freshman

    President Obama, I do appreciate how hard you are working to get this country back together after decades of poor, thoughtless decisions made by everyone of us regardless of party. To help you along, I have a idea that you might want to take a look at:
    1. Develop an effective population-control strategy. This will, at least, require more education of people since literacy and population growth are inversly related.
    2. Completely restructure our energy programs. A sustainable global economy is probably impossible is it is based on use of fossil fuels. New energy plans will utilize the concept of an integrated energy policy, with more emphasis on renewable energy sources, solar and wind for example. Finally, conservation of energy must have a central place in our energy managment plans.
    3. Institute economic planning, including development of a tax structure that will encourage population control and wise use of resources. Financial aid for developing countries is absolutely necessary to narrow the gap between rich and poor nations.
    4. Implement social, legal, political, and educational changes that provide for maintenance of a quality local, regional, and global environment. This must be a serious commetment that all the people of the world and the US will cooperate to achieve.
    Stating that we wish to develop a sustainable future acknowledges that our present practices are not sustainable. Indeed, continuing in our present paths of overpopulation, resource consumption, and pollution will not lead to sustainabliity.

    January 23, 2010 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  21. lifelong democrat

    Businesses has the same rights GUARANTEED under the FIRST AMMENDMENT as SEIU, UNIONS, George Soros and other leftists out there with Obama at the helm.

    Thanked God the US SUPREME COURT adhere to the US CONSTITUTION!

    January 23, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  22. Nick

    Steve Gee wrote:
    Hammer all you want Obama, all you're doing is nailing yourself down as a Marxist.

    The ruling from the Supreme Court protects Freedom of Speech. The so-called "rules" for campaign contribution gave Liberals (and their Union buddies) an unfair advantage in elections.

    Now, everyone and any entity can openly support whomever they want for elections. Can't wait for the primaries and November ... and conservative victories across the country!

    Ya lets not empower ordinary people who make this country possible. Lets ignore them and give an even greater voice to the billion dollar corporations who are so neglected. You call obama a marxist. Well your supporting oligarchy. There really isnt that big of a difference between democracy and Marxism. When someone reigns in people like the health care industry you cry marxist. Capitalism is not some holy institution that is perfect. It can and does go to far, for example wall street.

    How can you even be against this. This empowers you and what you want for the country. I find it really ignorant when people stomp all over an idea just because it comes from the other side of the aisle. Im a democrat and I hope harry reid loses his reelection.

    This message from the president is why I voted for him. Yes we can and yes we did.

    January 23, 2010 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  23. lifelong democrat

    James Brooklyn N.Y. January 23rd, 2010 11:44 am ET

    Now we all are going to have to work for wal-mart. America will become a wasteland of huge stores and poor people. The only way to make good money will be in drugs and prostitution.

    ====
    Even Walmart doesn't have opening, you have better luck applying for welfare which liberals and my OWN party wanted you to do. As long as my OWN party riddled with corruption is at the helm, you're lucky if you can get a job selling lemonade at the corner.

    January 23, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  24. Chris

    Where is all the Conservative outrage against activist judges who circumvent the legislature? Oh, that's right – Conservatives are all for activisits judges along as those judges make hardcore, Right-wing rulings.

    The idea that a global corporation spending on a multimillion dollar campaign is exactly the same as the speach of an individual is ludicrous! What can I do? Post a few comments on the web, maybe tack a few flyers around town, where they might get read by a few others. A corporation can blasts out commericals by the hundreds on TV, radio, etc. They will reach millions and drown out the free speach of the individual. America will be a government of the Rich, by the Rich, and for the Rich. The Middle Class wil be marginalized to almost nothing. Just what the Republicans want.

    January 23, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  25. Noel Martin

    I think asll people, AND large companies want the best we can get in Washington. The rules should be that a list of donors be readily available so people know who is supporting whom. all political advertising should include a statment updated weekly as to the percentage of campaign money that has been contributed by first, private, second, business and thirdley corporate sources. Overly generous donations should be scrutenized.
    There are some good and some bad points with too much ocontrol. As we know many are led by a n eloquent speakerr with big promises and there are those that are impressed with a persons past history, accomplishments and positions even if he is a n average speaker. Actions speak louder than words.

    January 23, 2010 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
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