January 23rd, 2010
11:21 AM ET
4 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. Independent_me

    All of the activist Republican Judges on the Supreme Court voted to empower corporations to buy influence in government. This is potentially the end of our democracy as we know it.

    It is not surprising that the Republican lawmakers praised this decision – these same people who accuse Obama of leading the country to socialism are now leading the country to 3rd-world type of corrupt governance. This decision means that corporations will now put their choice of Republican in ALL government offices so that they can benefit from the laws that they will pass. Laws that the Corporations will write. They have set the country on a path to 3rd world government status.

    Corporations can simply threaten politicians to vote for their agendas by spending billions of dollars campaigning for or against politicians. Naturally they will support politicians who will give them what they want.

    And which Party traditionally protects big Corporations????

    Republicans, of course.

    America – expect to see roll-backs in ALL laws that protect you, your rights and the environment. This will not only negatively affect women (and thus the standard of living in the American household), but also the environment, work-place safety laws, consumer protection laws, wages and benefits, etc.

    That is what the Republicans have brought this nation to.

    January 23, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  2. Term Limits

    Secretly he is salivating at all the union money that will flood his campaign.

    January 23, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  3. citystate

    Just another step on the road to the corporate state. If we all put our anthropological hats on, we could see this as part of a larger evolutionary trend for how societies are organized.

    The irony here is that now evolution is deliberate.

    January 23, 2010 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  4. richard

    prez ; this supreme court is the court that swindled al gore out of being president of the united states. its time to get real ..... and if you don't listen to the people ,and come out w/ a fiscal reduction in spending plan. the people have spoken and you will get that backlash..... and thats being in office one term. have congress take an extended vacation this summer and canel their gov't health care coverage like you said you would...

    January 23, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. Charles

    The Supreme Court has now opened the door to a dictatorship. Republicans love this. They want to tell who to marry, what religion we should have, what women can do with their bodies and who the American peaole should listen to. They claim they know better than anyone else with their lies and deceit. AAHHHHHHH

    January 23, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. Helena

    I can't believe the ignorant hateful posts here.

    President Obama- please no more Mr. Nice Guy – keep on fighting! My family & friends support you 100%! By the way – Barack Obama's campaign donations came from millions of private citizens like me, my family & friends. His campaign disclosed this information throughout his campaign – perhaps you need to pay attention.

    January 23, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. PAUL W.

    What a contrast in messages between the President and the Senator. Obama, concerned for the American People and the future of democracy. Boehner acting like an over indulged adolescent who has gotten an a new car after totaling his last one in a drunk driving accident. Really, we can do so much better than the GOP!

    January 23, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  8. Death Panel Sarah

    There is no defense to giving multi-billion dollar corporations the right to meddle in our elections.
    The PEOPLE running the corps. have one vote, like us, but now they can influence millions with their CORPORATE dollars!!!!

    That takes us one step closer to fascism!!!!(for those who don't know, Fascism is government run by corporations)

    January 23, 2010 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  9. Scott, Tucson

    Maybe obama will finally list the Royals of Saudi Arabia as one of his leading campaign donors.

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

    Corporations will produce questionable campaign commercials with half-truths and flat out lies. Can you say swiftboated? They are betting that the truly uneducated and truly uniformed and truly gullible will buy what they have to say. They will be 100% correct in this assumption. I don't know why John McCain was against this corporate financing since he is the king of half-truths and always found a way to reduce a complicated subject into a twisted elementary explanation that his base could easily digest. Once again this was a 5-4 vote with conservatives on the court making a huge mistake that is only equal to a silly ruling in the 80's against private homosexual conduct between two consenting adults and a recent and unbelievable ruling by liberal judges concerning imminent domain. The homosexual ruling was overturned by educated secular thought and I believe the imminent domain and corporate campaign donations ruling will also be overturned. They have decided that a corporation is a person. Only a conservative Republican would think this. Corporations are made up of individual people who have their right to contribute to campaigns and their rights will be trampled by bigger bucks which deliver a bigger message to a gullible audience.

    January 23, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  11. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    Wake up right wingnuts, You conservatives are destroying America.

    January 23, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  12. MatthewDetroit

    Dont worry Obama, everyone hides money to give to you.

    You will still get your share.

    You never could show where your millions of 2000 donations came from.

    You clearly received your share of Union money....

    Finally, You dont really believe in the constitution anyway.
    You are not an American in heart soul mind, or reality.

    January 23, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  13. p

    This decision by basically the same court that prematurely stopped the vote count because George W. was, at that time,
    ahead in Florida. Supreme Court should be without an agenda.
    Just imagine if those extremist judicial activists had not handed the presidential election to the tragic Mr. Bush!
    I truly think that our senators and reps will one day openly represent not states or districts, but their corporate sponsors.

    January 23, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. Hammerer

    What a joke!
    This comming from a man that spent more money than any one in a single campaign in history.
    How did he raise that much cash? He would have you to believe that it was all legal and above board. All in $100 dollar gift cards. Right?

    January 23, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  15. Dave, NE

    Barack Obama's days are numbered. Count-down has begun. He does not know what to do so blame Supreme Court now. I wish people did not vote for him to office. What a disgrace it is. Big talk but no action. He is desperate now,.It shows his inexperience and poor leadership.

    January 23, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  16. MatthewDetroit

    Isnt this the same LIAR who broke his pledge on public funding...

    More of do what I say and not what I do.

    You are an elitist, and a benelovent dictator... you love your people as long as you can tell them what to do.

    You are a lousy leader and a bad example of the first black president....your presidency is a failure, a utter failure...

    You are everything anti American that can be. You are over.

    January 23, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  17. New Age Independent

    What delusional far left liberals like "Donkey Party" and "Mary in carmel" dont want to admit is that Democrats have been doing this for years by backing so called documentaries such as An Inconvenient Truth and Fahrenheit 911. Both have been thoroughly debunked yet were allowed to go forward. Of course when "Hillary: The Movie" was created, that changed everything. Dems cry foul when it's convenient for them, and to stall a "movie" they don't like right before an election. But of course, it's perfectly fine for them. The hypocrisy of the liberal agenda knows no bounds.

    January 23, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  18. Death Panel Sarah

    Its funny(not) how the reptili'con's make fun of this serious threat to our country!!
    This undermines our whole system of government!!

    When a multi-national corporation, like one from Saudi-Arabia, decides to spend millions to defeat a congressman who favors energy-independence, we ALL lose!!!

    I really think the 'con's hate America(or, maybe, just non-rich Americans)!!!

    January 23, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  19. jane

    I would think Obama is pleased with this decision. The liberal court ruling allows all the special interest groups to dump loads of money in the democratic campaigns. Unions for large companies and those who give special home loans and bennies to the large fat democratic base in congress will be able to sway the elections. Frank, Nancy, and Harry are laughing in their shoes.

    January 23, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  20. Peter E

    For a guy who bought his way to the White House with the largest (and per vote, least efficient) presidential campaign spending in history he sure is upset about others' campaign finances. And no, it's not that all of that money was from 'the people.' He too was (and still is) in pocket of every one of those special interests he criticizes others for, like big oil, drug companies, Wall Street, you name it!

    January 23, 2010 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  21. Arden Muller

    It means that those of us who want him as President need to donate like we did for his campaign. If he really wants to fight back then its time to pass legislation for public financing for campaign money.

    January 23, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  22. Glenn Koons

    This guy cannot remember even 10 yrs. ago. SCOTUS should have declared McCain-Feingold un-Const. then. Free speech is money and ads and for all not just unions, Kos, Moveon, ACORN and SEIU. This naif in the WH has to be the worst Pres. in my 71 years. It is fine when unions or the MSM can smear Pub conserv , even Christian candidates right up to election day with no rejoinder but boy howdy, if the Right, or corporations, or Talk Radio want ads to counter or impose truth or their view of the facts up to election day, NO GO for them. What a total phony and hypocrite this guy is. Now he is out after Big Business and Banks again. Of course, they produce profit and jobs. He has done neither .

    January 23, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  23. Sue

    "This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy," Obama says in the address."

    Obama.............Why is this different versus the influence/buying of elections by George Soros, General Electric/MSNBC, La Raza, ACORN, SEIU, etc.---that favors Democrats ONLY???

    Either ALL special interest groups or NO special interests groups---you can't have it both ways.

    January 23, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  24. ICARE

    To Wil

    This is so sad. But you hit it on the nail. God help US!!! We desperately NEED term limits if we are going to legalize this FORBIDDEN DEMON into our society....

    January 23, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  25. Ms S Callahan

    Wasted energy.....this one was for 'the people'.

    January 23, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
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