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. B

    The Supreme Court has now been made a political tool of the Republicans and money from corporations.

    This has to be challenged in Congress and with the American people.

    We are totally losing our democracy to corporations and the American people should be outraged.

    Social Darwinism is going on, the rich and powerful control everything from healthcare to energy and education with no balance from mainstream people anywhere. We are losing this country bit by bit !!

    January 23, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  2. ICARE

    To Andrew

    Obama may have broken his campaign promises, but his campaign WAS the voice of the people.... we poured out our needs in the form of supporting Obama..... THAT JUSTIFIES his campaign...

    January 23, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  3. Stan, Canada

    The new reality is that there is the distinct possibility that the polished, carefully crafted lie, will out influence the voters than the poorly messaged truth. Yes I know this was always the case between political parties, politicians and candidates, but now, there's full corporate america and foreign co-ownership interests which have billions of dollars in their coffers, so putting hundreds of millions of dollars, to craft congress they way the corporations want it will leave the average american totally vulnerable to corporate pillaging of american society.

    January 23, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  4. ICARE

    To Bill

    We need term-limits. They can be bought but not totally because we help elect them so it's not that bad.

    Term Limit will solve corruption problems.

    January 23, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  5. ICARE

    to Donkey Party

    We just dont have leaders that care about America's future anymore. It seemed as if all the good elephants all have died off...

    January 23, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  6. Loren in CA

    So many sheep, bleating about the "alarmists" in their midst as they're being led to slaughter. Have you people ever *listened* to yourselves?

    Why should a corporation with a zillion dollars be able to buy more "free speech" than I can?

    January 23, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  7. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Politcians will soon wear company logos like nascar drivers,bye bye miss American pie,drove our chevy to the levy,but the levy was dry.hahaha

    January 23, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  8. JamesNJ

    Justice Stevens said the majority had committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of human beings. Essentially they're saying corporations are now considered human beings.
    If polygamy isn't legal anywhere in the United States would this be an effective way to challenge the decision ?
    A man and a woman go into business and form a corporation. Another woman opens a business, forms her own corporation and then marries the other corporation. The SC, giving them human rights, now would have to either repeal the law on polygamy or overturn this decision.

    January 23, 2010 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  9. sharp2

    I don't care for the ruling, but Obama is a whining joke. He has had more special interest and closed door deals than any President. For a President that we hoped would change and bypass all that he is a SHAME for this country.

    January 23, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  10. La Chatte

    Yes, this ruling sucks, but it also gives Obama the chance to stomp his foot, jump up and down, wave his pompoms, and accomplish absolutely nothing as usual. I wish we had a real president.

    January 23, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  11. not alone

    Yep and when the conservitives win all the elections we will get what we deserve and that will be no consumer protections( lead in your kids toys will be small pototoes compaird to what comming), No need for a minimume wage all the lawless imagrints will get free tickets to come here to work for a buck an hour. Medicare and Medicade will be gutted and usless to all and our for sale healthcare system will be priced way beyond what it is today. Our city mayors, state goveners and judges men/women we be bought and paid for by other countries threw corperations that they own in the shadows. Corperate welfar will be everyday for those bigcorps that will own all the small corps. This is a disaster in epic proportions and a loss for every American. Big corps will buy or take over little ones to either squash their opions or to hide who really owns them. Dirty politics will take on a whole new meaning in the years to come and the biggest losers will be common guy/gal and also the truth.

    January 23, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  12. Jonathan Burton

    So many of you are such petty partisians! You foolishly fight amongst yourselves over temporary squatting rights in office, while failing to see what is really happening. This is the end of democracy!
    Not just for the liberal left...but all of us! All people in this country just lost any right they had to reasonable representation.
    Can't you wake up and see that you are being hoodwinked?
    Isn't it obvoius that it isn't about R versus D anymore, and that you are all corporate slaves with no real voice anymore?
    Both sides the left and right have been tricked into fighting themselves when they should have been teaming up against the corporate elite who now have nothing stopping them from completely taking over our political system and democracy.
    But keep on infighting about petty political differences, and play into what the powers that be want. You have been divided and your have been conquered.

    January 23, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  13. getreal

    I agree with President Obama 100%. I hope everyone enjoys the lies and attack ads brought to you by Bank of America , Exxon and United Health! If you don't like it, too bad. The activist judges have spoken!

    January 23, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  14. Jerry in Ohio

    While everyone is bustling around screaming about socialism and govt run health care, the REALLY important issues like this are pushed to the back. This will only reinforce that regardless of R or D, big money rules this country with an iron fist.

    January 23, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  15. Chris

    I'm sure all Americans – Conservatives especially – will be so happy that the Chinese, Saudi Arabians, and all the other foreigners will now finally have a say and will be able wield enormous influence on American elections. American citizenship is no longer need, just that you own stock in a company. Can't wait to see who some communist chariman over in China decides to pick to be my next senator.

    January 23, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  16. Dennis

    I believe back in the 1880's corporations were granted the same rights as citizens. All of this stuff is based on that. Our whole government is too broken to be repaired. This country is just a shallow shell of what the founding fathers intended. It really is the united corporation of america instead of United States of America. President Obama is going to be the perfect fall guy for all of this I voted for him and I love him as our president but he doesn't stand a chance against the united corporation of america.

    January 23, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  17. Annie, Atlanta

    John D. – he already disclosed where his campaign money came from – special interests, just like every other politician. Sadly, this is the way it works until we see some viable campaign finance reform. And some of these pols feel they owe a debt, and some don't, and we have to determine the difference, which becomes nearly impossible when they speak out of both sides of their mouths.

    Now, can we impeach justices of the Supreme Court when their judgment is in question. Five of them just gave corporations (some with heavy foreign investment) a voice, without any responsibility beyond self interest for said voice. Some of them appointed George Bush as president against the will of the people (popular vote), and now this? This is insane.

    January 23, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. Obama's bipartism....

    In his speech dedicated to mlk in Washington Obama mentioned this
    well bipartism did not happen....well. nothing happens unless you work hard to make it so...Obama is more interested in making endless speeches and always on the campeign trail....enough already

    .............................time to put self-interest aside................................

    January 23, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. Ken

    @SteveGee who 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!""

    Do you realize the implications of this? You're openly saying that the 08 elections were unfair due to restrictions on how much any one person or entity could donate to a campaign. inadvertently you're saying that those who can afford a greater monetary loss would gain it back in influence over other voters.

    January 23, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  20. William

    Corporations are not persons, and money is not speech.

    Every one of us, Democrat and Republican, rich and poor, Liberal and Conservative, has been dealt a blow today by powerful corporate interests who have taken over our representative Democracy and turned it into a way to transparently funnel every available bit of wealth and powerful to the already wealthy and powerful.

    January 23, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  21. A Guy

    "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."

    How hard is it to type with that straight jacket on?

    January 23, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  22. Roger

    For a person who refused public funding in the 2008 elections, so that he could have access to unlimited funds, Obama now is trying to convey his displeasure with the Supreme Court decision. It still remains to be seen who really did finance his 2008 campaign. Although his lack of experience is so pronounced, the time has come when Obama needs to start leading the country or accelerate his fading popularity. He can't lead by just saying things are so just because he said they are. Obama stop campaigning the election is over and start exercising some degree of leadership. Perhaps you can start by getting rid of some of your henchmen who surround you - yes the remnants of the Chicago political machine - Emanuel, Axelrod, etc.

    January 23, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  23. Florence

    President Obama was supported by people and will be supported by us the people in 2012 as long as he continues to stand tall and forceful. No more Mr. nice guys. Republicans have proven that they don't have a rational mind therefore don’t deserve to be treated like an adult.

    January 23, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  24. Alan

    That's right Mr. Prez its job to bully lawmakers into voting your way.

    This should be very clear to every one. How can you regulate free speach to one group and not another. This shows you that Obama does not stand for what the constitution says about free speach.

    January 23, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  25. Mike

    Scared of an even playing field, Mr. President?

    January 23, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
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