August 21st, 2010
11:27 AM ET
2 years ago

Obama slams 'corporate takeover of our democracy'


Washington (CNN) - President Obama used his weekly internet and radio address to once again call for passage of legislation regarding political advertising.

"[W]e cannot allow the corporate takeover of our democracy," Obama says in the address. "So we’re going to continue to fight for reform and transparency. And I urge all of you to take up the same fight. Let’s challenge every elected official who benefits from these ads to defend this practice or join us in stopping it."

(Read Obama's full remarks after the jump)

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
August 21, 2010

As the political season heats up, Americans are already being inundated with the usual phone calls, mailings, and TV ads from campaigns all across the country. But this summer, they’re also seeing a flood of attack ads run by shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names. We don’t know who’s behind these ads and we don’t know who’s paying for them.

The reason this is happening is because of a decision by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case – a decision that now allows big corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections. They can buy millions of dollars worth of TV ads – and worst of all, they don’t even have to reveal who is actually paying for them. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation. You don’t know if it’s BP. You don’t know if it’s a big insurance company or a Wall Street Bank. A group can hide behind a phony name like “Citizens for a Better Future,” even if a more accurate name would be “Corporations for Weaker Oversight.”

We tried to fix this last month. There was a proposal supported by Democrats and Republicans that would’ve required corporate political advertisers to reveal who’s funding their activities. When special interests take to the airwaves, whoever is running and funding the ad would have to appear in the advertisement and take responsibility for it – like a company’s CEO or an organization’s biggest contributor. And foreign-controlled corporations and entities would be restricted from spending money to influence American elections – just as they were in the past.

You would think that making these reforms would be a matter of common sense. You’d think that reducing corporate and even foreign influence over our elections wouldn’t be a partisan issue.

But the Republican leaders in Congress said no. In fact, they used their power to block the issue from even coming up for a vote.

This can only mean that the leaders of the other party want to keep the public in the dark. They don’t want you to know which interests are paying for the ads. The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.

Well, we cannot allow the corporate takeover of our democracy. So we’re going to continue to fight for reform and transparency. And I urge all of you to take up the same fight. Let’s challenge every elected official who benefits from these ads to defend this practice or join us in stopping it.

At a time of such challenge for America, we can’t afford these political games. Millions of Americans are struggling to get by, and their voices shouldn’t be drowned out by millions of dollars in secret, special interest advertising. Their voices should be heard.

Let’s not forget that a century ago, it was a Republican President – Teddy Roosevelt – who first tried to tackle the issue of corporate influence on our elections. He actually called it “one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs.” And he proposed strict limits on corporate influence in elections. “Every special interest is entitled to justice,” he said. “but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office.”

We now face a similar challenge, and a similar opportunity to prevent special interests from gaining even more clout in Washington. This shouldn’t be a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. This is an issue that goes to whether or not we will have a democracy that works for ordinary Americans – a government of, by, and for the people. Let’s show the cynics and the special interests that we still can.


Filed under: Ads • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Ken in NC

    How will you know when the corporate takeover of our democracy has been completed? The IRS will send you a tax notice advising you that your citizenship is be outsourced to India and that you are being layed off as an American Citizen.

    August 21, 2010 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  2. JhakSchiddt

    Obama is a total hypocrite. While he's pretending to bash corporate America, he has his hand out behind his back accepting payoff dollars from the same corporations.
    Obama is just another Chicago Gangster Politician.

    August 21, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. Liz the First

    This is why elections matter! if enough good people had gotten off their lazy arses in 2000, bush wouldn't have been able to steal the election and appoint the toadies to the scotus who, by this decision, have destroyed our democratic process. if we don't do something to undo or at least moderate this most disastrous decision, we will be a nation run by and for corporations. justen, steve, 'old-timer,' do you have any idea at all how bad that would be? if you think it would be a good thing, you're totally delusional! Democrats believe in enterprise, but we believe in responsible enterprise. 'free' enterprise means no restrictions, no regulation, no safeguards for people that the products they buy are not going to make them sick or even kill them. it means profit at all costs, the public and workers be damned. and the people screaming on this site in favor of this robber baron ruled world would be hurt by it the same as everyone else. judging from the logic and grammar of most of the haters' posts, i'm guessing they're not college graduates or professional people. they're just morons too stupid to know they're voting against their own self-interst and their children's futures.

    August 21, 2010 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. Haren

    It is obvious that white America is applying different scale to look at Obama's success.
    He has to do more because his skin color is black.
    Did not he delivered what he campaign in the election?
    health reform,financial reform, ending Iraq war. and if republican would not have govern with 40% minority we would have more bill including small business tax cut and 9/11 first responder health care.
    And what bothers me is all these gulf state voters typical selfish thinking, are they going to vote for republican? who apologies to BP for disaster.
    Obama is the one who gave them 20 billion escrow from BP.
    Please don't bring all that republican crooks who has increased budget deficit of this country for 20 years.

    August 21, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  5. kat

    Somehow, I can't understand this NUT. He wants to replace a Corporate take over with a Government takeover, To me one's about as bad as the other. On second thought I think a Government takeover is worse. Especially with the government we have now.

    August 21, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  6. The Truth Please...I Just Want The Truth

    I, for one, do NOT want a bunch of crooked, dishonest, embezzeling, insider trading corporate executives running this country.

    Say NO to CEOs running for public office!

    August 21, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  7. republicans = Neanderthals

    What industries has Obama taken over? TARP funds to the big banks was handed out by Bush. We've collected almost all of the TARP funds back and we, the taxpayers, came out ahead with the interest we charged the banks! The auto industry bailout wasn't to take over the auto industry it was to prevent a collapse of a major part of the American Economy. Hundreds of thousands of jobs would've been lost. So instead of 8 million lost jobs, thanks Bush, we would've at 9 million with GM failing. And we did not take them over! Anyone who thinks we did needs to understand the sky is blue! And we did not take over the health care industry, we REFORMED it tea baggers! Now give us single payer so your premiums will go down jack aces.

    Here comes the election, what wedge issues will Republicans bring up this year?

    Could we get some ideas from the right? Nope, never had any and never will. You right wingers are tools.

    August 21, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. Tom-Vermillion Ohio

    @Patricio, you and your kind will wimp out come November. And by the way I don't care much for Unions either. It's the big Corporations that I have the most fear of. They will eat the small businesses up, and ship those jobs overseas. I suggest that we unite on this one, unless you want to starve.

    August 21, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  9. False and Biased brought to you by the GOP

    "We tried to fix this last month. There was a proposal supported by Democrats and Republicans that would’ve required corporate political advertisers to reveal who’s funding their activities. When special interests take to the airwaves, whoever is running and funding the ad would have to appear in the advertisement and take responsibility for it – like a company’s CEO or an organization’s biggest contributor. And foreign-controlled corporations and entities would be restricted from spending money to influence American elections – just as they were in the past. You would think that making these reforms would be a matter of common sense. You’d think that reducing corporate and even foreign influence over our elections wouldn’t be a partisan issue. But the Republican leaders in Congress said no. In fact, they used their power to block the issue from even coming up for a vote." ----- The GOP vote no on this because they are the party of "corporations first, Americans second" and will benefit from the corporate spending but do not want Americans to know the truth. Our state currently has a law requiring that corporations report their political spending. Our state GOP is trying to get rid of it. The GOP does not want Americans to know who the corporations are giving to and who is really behind the ads by PACs with pleasant-sounding names like "Citizens for a Better Tomorrow" that are doing nothing but spreading misleading propoganda. Obviously the GOP has something to hide from America.

    August 21, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  10. JerseyMike

    Of course, what is truly disingenuous about this remark is that Obama was one of the largest recipients of corporate – and specifically big bank lobby – money when he was a senator and when he ran for president. When he and his Democrat Party friends were on the receiving end of corporate political giving, he didn't utter a peep. However, when those same corporate givers decide that the high tax, job destroying policies of this administration are not good for them or their country and they begin to give to the other party – then, and only then, does Obama deem corporate political giving a problem.

    August 21, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  11. La Piovra

    The government is restrained by the Constitution and our votes. The corporatocracy is restrained by nothing. Elected officials are bound by law to respect our national interests and sovereignty. Multinational corporations owe allegience to no one. You want to live in a corporate fiefdom? You'll do it as a vassal or a serf, who lives at the will and pleasure of an overlord. And if you must try it now, right away, go to China, now Red in name only, where if someone rich finds you are a tissue match, you can be shot for your kidneys or your heart, though methinks you are safe from anyone craving your brain. Those of us who believe corporations are business arrangements, not people and not monarchs, would as soon you did that and left us Americans the hell alone.

    August 21, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  12. Hammerer

    Right, what we need is the government in control and a one world government, like obama is pushing, so obama can be the emperor, as he envisions himself, rule the world.

    August 21, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  13. Shar

    Barry – Go back to Kenya or Indonesia or wherever!

    You know the Disclose Act was the OPPOSITE of Disclose.

    We are all over you.

    Remember? You wrote a book about your Father when you never even knew your Father? Remember Donald Young and Larry Sinclair? Uck.

    August 21, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  14. jim

    As opposed to the government take over of our democracy. you betcha !!! this socialist utopia that Obama wants has failed time after time wherever it's tried.

    August 21, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  15. James R Sullivan

    Campaign Finance reform is actually easy in todays hi tech world.

    1. EVERY ad, print or broadcast, comes with a large print weblink.
    2. That website identifies the entity paying for the ad.
    3. That website also Identifies the REAL source of EVERY dollar collected.
    4. Anybody caught lying or cheating donates $2,000,000 to the 'Pay Down The National Debt Fund."

    August 21, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  16. JIlli

    I'm with the president on this one. In this country money has always been influence, yet we each still had our vote, and we had our voice. Now the corporations will be buying their candidates way into office, and our voices will quickly and easily be squelched. Our votes – and most especially our personal contributions to elections just really won't matter. Look at the republican party now – through the help of karl roves group and fox news and their contributions, it's clear just which side the candidates they push to elect will be standing on. They will be beholden to their corporate benefactors because they're the ones paying to pave the way to their election. It's a sad day in this country when are elections were made available to the highest bidder. Where are the cries to "take our country back" on this issue?

    August 21, 2010 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  17. Cindy

    Labor Unions are working people. American working people. If not for labor unions, the country would be filled with Haves (blue blood families that own everything) and Have Nots (the little people who work for them). Because of unions, the middle class was formed, and they could afford to buy their own homes, send their kids to college, and move up in society.

    It's disturbing to see that the efforts of unionizing the working people in this country could be framed as the enemy. The "business first/people second" propaganda machine is alive and well and thriving in America.

    August 21, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  18. Sarah -- nyc

    People like Justen and Michael are so blinded by the right-winged rhetoric that they are unable to grasp what President Obama is trying to do to restore this nation to prosperity and sanity. It is amazing to those of us who are rational to watch those on the right continually offer up America to corporate greed. You need to get over it because we are not giving our country back to the likes of Enron, BP, Madoff and Cheney.

    August 21, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  19. WIlly Brown

    Mr. Obama we are a Republic, not a Democracy.

    August 21, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  20. bum

    What he means is a government for and by the people and their unions. I really don't think he knows the meaning of transparancy and if he does, he doesn't believe in it.

    August 21, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  21. leigh

    The law the president spoke of was the disclose act. Have you read it? The act was another control grab by the government, this time led by democrats. If this act was so good, why was the NRA exempt from it's requirements? The NRA is one of the most powerful lobbies in town. The act also put restrictions on businesses that received bailout money, but not on unions that received bailout money. So GM couldn't tell someone how to vote, but the United Auto Workers could. Remember the number one visitor to the WhiteHouse in the first six months was Andy Stern, former head of S.E.I.U.. Unions and democrats scratch each others backs. So, what's better having unions run the show or corporations and businesses? He's talks about businesses hiding behind phony groups and associations. Did he learn that from his time a ACCORN. How much money did George Sorros give to mediamatters or moveon.org? Most in washington, whether democrat or republican, are either inept, corrupt, complete ideologues, lazy,, or just power hungry. So, we the people (a lot) debate and yell at each other about who is worse, and the unions and corporations keep, maintain, and grow their power. To change the balance we need to vote each and every clown out of office. Both parties are totally out of whack. Our votes should go to a good, solid candidate, not a political party.

    August 21, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  22. all of America

    obama ,We also cannot allow your socialistic takeover of our democracy either. A majority of the public don't like your agenda, for all of your democrat followers ,we will give them free one way tickets to mexico, so why don't you resign and go back to kenya where you were born. You can go back there and run their country into the dirt, they seem to like you there.

    August 21, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  23. charlie from the North

    Democrats think that government can help people, when they have the power they do every thing they can to make government helpful. Republicans think that government is the problem so when they have the power they do everything they can to make government a problem.

    Any question who would be best for the country?

    August 21, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  24. valwayne

    What does that mean? That Obama is going to grow the size and cost of Government even more and control every aspect of ever business in the country. He did such a great job with the Gulf Coast cleanup can you imagine? We need to vote the Democrats out in Nov and put some balance back into our Government to end the insanity!!!

    August 21, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  25. StargazerInSavannah

    To begin, our government is a "Representative Republic", not a Democracy.
    Government, not corporations are the major threat to our way of life. It is the ever growing power grabbing overpaid and incompetent government that has been systematically destroying our nation.
    Corporations are not capable of destroying our freedoms, it takes the government to undermine our what were our constitutionally protected rights.
    George W. Bush was an absolute piker when it came to destroying our treasury. His greatest failure was his failure to veto spending bills presented by the House.
    Deficit spending skyrocketed after Pelosi and Democrats seized the House in 2006. The current administration and congress has created a greater deficit in one and one half years than was created in the firs six years of the Bush administration.
    The "Greater Depression" that we are about to enter is the sole responsibility of the current administration and congress. If wealth is created, it is created by private industry. Government does not and cannot create wealth, it only destroys it.

    August 21, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
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