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. Albert K. L.A., CA

    The impacrt on law making is nothing short of crime. Imagine how a Senator will vote when legaly bribed with the "free speech" of a corporation in the form of a check for $25 Million toward his "campaign" if he agrees with the corporations "opinion." and told the corporation will "talk" with his opponent if he disagrees.

    nd then there will be the TV ads. from Politics Park where candidate A, has Major League Team inc. running his commercials while candidate B, has Major League Cheerleaders Inc. cheering her on. And last but not least, candidate C, has Big Beer Inc. pouring on commercials duing every break. Yes indeed, the competition of issues is well matched but only one candidate will win Bubba’s vote.

    Corporations are not humans but only"artificial persons" and should not be allowed to meddle in human politics. This is bad law and we to amend ther constitution to fix it.. What will be the watershed, robots running for office? Robots would at least have a better chance at earning human rights serving in the military but fat corporations would starve on a selfless hero’s salary. Imagine a folded flag being handed to a grieving CEO as a symbol of appreciation for services rendered by his loved one. Yeah right, as if a selfish corporation would volunteer for service.

    January 23, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  2. GI Joe

    Vote politicians out every term. That will show them WE pay them to do a job, not to get wealthy by selling out.

    January 23, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. stormerF

    Sure Obama is against the Unions,buying politicans,He really must think the American Tax Payer is stupid? What he is against is the airing of the politicans dirty little secrets up to the day we vote at the polls,instead of stopping it 60 days before the election day..... Go Supreme Court way to preserve the 1st amendment rights of all Americans.

    January 23, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  4. KathyC in MInnesota

    What the Supreme Court has done with their horrible ruling is allow the Big Corporations to legally Blackmail and threaten lawmakers who do not vote THEIR INTERESTS!! To hell with what the people think!!

    But the Neo-Cons do not see that! They only see victory for Republicans and the retaking control of Government. They, the ones who have been foaming at the mouth on the evils of one party with control,(1994-2007) will have their voices silenced!! It will be the Corporations who control all the wealth, who will control the Election process and Government.

    "Man looks into the Abyss. He sees nothing staring back at him. It is then man finds his character and stays out of the Abyss."

    The conservative members of the Supreme Court in their decision did not heed those words. They sold their characters to Corporate interests.

    January 23, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  5. Steve, New York City

    Mr. President – I agree with you on this one (as maybe McCain-Feingold didn't go far enough).

    In the meantime, would you also kindly tone down the "class warfare crap!" – Since when are wealthy people responsible for "all the ills of the country" or supposed to single-handedly provide healthcare to everyone through higher taxes?

    And please also explain to the dull-witted Nancy Pelosi that $250,000 in New York is not the same as $250,000 in Duluth, Minnesota. Of course, she makes WAY more money than that – and has a private jet (but don't tell anyone).

    January 23, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  6. coach

    Even Regan would choke on this.

    January 23, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  7. Rooting for Obama for the good of America

    The conservative arm of the Supreme Court did Americans a disservice. Instead of having LESS special interest influence on politicians which is what we desperately need, we will now have much MORE. Corporations that want to continue to pollute, corporations who want us to continue to be dependent on oil (solely because it makes them TONS of money), corporations (such as insurance) who want to continue to gouge middle class America simply because they can will now be able to threaten politicians. For example, a corporation can say to a politican running for office "if you are not against regulating pollution then we are going to spend $10 million dollars on a massive ad campaign against you." That is very daunting for someone trying to run for office and do the right thing. Corporations will trample over the voices of individual Americans who do not have the massive amounts of money it will take to make a difference. This ruling is very sad for the future of democracy.

    January 23, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  8. Betty

    All of you are nuts, especially you right wing haters. You people need to research the FRENCH revolution, they got rid of all the rich people and corporate types. Sounds good to me. :O)

    If you Teabaggers are tired of big government then why didn't you come out in mass protest when bush was in the white house? Sounds like the big R to me, believe one thing if you don't believe anything else, slavery is over and will never come again. There will be Rich and poor in this country. All these misguided southners will suffer the most! It's time to really start boycotting certain big business companies and we need to stick with it. If they back the wrong as in right wingers we should boycott their products. It can and will work.

    January 23, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  9. buckeye

    five reactionary men in robes destroyed what hundreds of thousands of patriotic Americans in uniform died to defend, namely democracy in America. What a colossal American tragedy!

    January 23, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  10. joe m

    i have to disagree with the president on this. i'm not a fan of big corporations and unions having a greater influence on elections, but the supreme court got this right, we have the right to make up our own minds. the position that the president has taken sends the message that he does not seem to think we are smart enough to consider other points of view. the next step is to set up a process where full disclosure becomes mandatory for all political campaigns. let the corporations and unions and special interest groups put out their message about candidates, and then let the american voters know which of these groups these politicians are actually taking money from. from this point on we can then make up our minds who is really looking to work for us and who's just out for themselves.

    January 23, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  11. CRob

    This ruling is bad, except now we will know where the money is coming from. This wont change the amount of funding, it just will make corporations not have to use loopholes in the current system.

    January 23, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  12. Seattle Sue

    When Justice Sotomayor was nominated for the Supreme Court last year, wasn't it the GOP Republicans that complained that she would not follow the law but make laws herself. What has these five Republican appointed Justices done? Is not striking down a law that has been in effect for about a hundred years and making their own law exactly what the right wing preaches against? Phony!

    January 23, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  13. idea

    This is the death of the democracy .In their agenda to defeat Obama by any means , reps and conservatives full of the hatry are choosing the corporate over american people. So who are the real domestics terrorists?

    January 23, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  14. Debby

    I would like to know where all Obama's campaign money went since he had the most in history.

    January 23, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  15. John in Tampa

    People defending this decision as freedom of speech, freedom for whom? I can create a corporation in a few minutes, as Chairman direct huge sums to influence an election, and then if I want un-incorporate and disappear.

    I could be Chinese or indian or Greek, but as a legitimate corporation in the USA now I can profoundly influence who runs that country and how their foreign policy rolls over at my beck and call. Not to pick out or accuse Walmart and China, but could they not now single-handedly buy an entire election with round-the-clock advertising?

    We all get one vote, and a corporation does not, but round-the-clock advertising they buy WILL sway a huge number of people, perhaps enough to make the rest of us irrelevant.

    Worse, as it gets more expensive even fewer people can enter politics, and we the peope suffer from having fewer choices.

    And by the way, it could work against your party as easily as it could work for it. Why the hell did they give what amounts to voting rights to non-people, let alone non-citizens?

    January 23, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  16. Seth Cold

    If it were not for those Corporate deals he made during his campaign he would of not had a surplus after his election. Lets be real.

    January 23, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  17. ThinkAgain

    Batnit says President Obama "never worked for a company."

    Ummm, what do you call the law firm he worked for? And all the other jobs he's had in his life, when he worked for a company and was paid for it?

    Haven't you heard that the biggest expense for companies is health care?
    Don't you get that lowering those costs will reduce expenses for companies, so they have more money to invest in their companies?
    Can’t you see that a work force that has affordable access to preventive care will be healthier and therefore more productive?

    Yours is a typical knee-jerk, anti-Obama reaction: unthinking and dumb.

    January 23, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  18. Bob

    Too bad the rest of the citizens weren't as smart as those bashing this ruling. That way, the advertisements from the unions and corporations wouldn't have any effect. But I guess the rest of us just can't be left to make our own decisions. Every morning I wake up thanking the liberals for taking care of us.

    January 23, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  19. Patricia Dickson

    Every thing this President do to benfit the American people the Republican fight him down and the stupid people dont see that those that are in Massachussetts the Gop have some Democrat like a ping pon ball that why nothing can be done they have no patience and then they want to blame the President, but i learn to keep on my knee for the President and ask Jehovah God to cover him under his Presious blood i am talking the blood of Jesus and no devil in hell cannot come near him i bind up every warefare spirity in congress that trying to come up against the President and his cabnet in the name of Jesus.

    January 23, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  20. Ken

    I guess it's ok for unrestricted political contributions by the unions (talk about "big business") but the same does apply to businesses in general, huh? Talk about a hypocritical double standard.

    January 23, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  21. John in WV

    The next time you want to blame Obama for unemployment, remember how much money special interests give their favorite politicians that could be used to create jobs. Remember how much insurance and drug companies spent to fight health care reform that could be used to make health care more available to working Americans.

    January 23, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain

    John D. says that is worried that President Obama will have to disclose where the money came from for his campaign.

    News flash: By law, the campaigns are required to disclose their contributions, and all the candidates did so.

    The vast majority of President Obama’s contributions came from the individuals making modest contributions.

    For example, 54% of President Obama's donors contributed $200 or less and 9% his donors contributed $4600 (the legal maximum amount).

    Contrast this to 34% of McCain's donors contributed $200 or less and 16% of his donors contributed $4600.

    If you want the truth, instead of listening to Limbaugh and the Faux News folks, go to the Federal Election Commission Web site and see for yourself.

    January 23, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  23. mike

    Lower taxes and less (but appropriate) regulation are key drivers of re-investment, innovation and job creation. This is not a partisan issue, it is simple fact. My 11th grader, who is studying 1st year economics understands this fact. Economic development occurs when there is trust in the rule of law, stability and consistent application of such. In prepping for his mid-term, he looked at me and said, "that sure doesn't seem like that is what is happening today in our country"...BTW, he supported Obama.

    The solution is simple....give business a reason to re-invest, innovate and hire...dont PUNISH them for their success...if a 16 year-old gets it, why can't the Ivy League educated leaders get it?

    January 23, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  24. Michael from Ventura

    Now this is an item that needs to be addressed NOW- Good for you, Mr. President. This is a disaster with a capital D!

    January 23, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  25. Albert K. L.A., CA

    The notion of freedom of expression for corporations is only the tip of the iceberg. The watershed of this bad law will be that since the “opinions” of corporations are constitutionally protected those opinions can also be “religious” in nature ("Money is God") and thus a corporation is really a church and therefore should enjoy the same tax free status of any other deeply held belief. We must amend the constitution or pack the court.

    January 23, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
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