April 11th, 2008
11:15 AM ET
14 years ago

Obama, McCain clash on CEO pay

At a press conference in Indianapolis, Barack Obama said that when it comes taking action against excessive CEO compensation, John McCain is all talk.

The McCain campaign quickly responded, calling the comments a "cheap political attack."

(full exchange after the jump)

Key Obama excerpt:

"I know Senator McCain had some sharp words the other day about what some CEOs are getting paid. And I was glad to hear it. But when he’s had the chance to do something about this problem, he’s opted for continuing the do-nothing approach of the Bush years. And this seems to be a trend with Senator McCain. Yesterday, he finally proposed some steps to deal with our housing crisis. And I’m glad he’s moving in the right direction, but what he’s proposing isn’t enough to really help struggling families.
"So I respect John McCain. He’ll be a worthy opponent. But we can’t afford another four years of policies that don’t make a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans, and that’s what John McCain is offering."

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds' response:

“Once again, Senator Obama’s words don’t match his actions. Apparently Senator Obama thinks cheap political attacks and typical Washington shenanigans substitute for real leadership. Corporate boards have the power to serve shareholders and make CEO pay match performance. John McCain believes cozy relationships with boards should not allow irresponsible CEOs to rake in millions on the backs of small investors. John McCain is committed to using the bully pulpit of the presidency to hold them accountable.”


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (150 Responses)
  1. kathe oakland, california

    MARK,MI – listen what has McCain said that matters? He does not even have economic "smarts", which he has already admitted. But holding the CEOs responsible – please where has McCain been all these years supporting them as Bush and Clinton have.

    GO OBAMA

    April 11, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  2. Believes in Hillary

    People are saying that there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim and they are right........so why then does Obama denies having any affiliation or any blood relatoin with Muslims. He grew up in Indonesia, he had a father and a step father who have Muslim backgrounds, his environment in his growing years was Muslim so whatever foundation he has is Muslim.
    Being a young, aggressive, ambitious men, his main objective is to be in power. That is so normal for someone his age........how he can hold power and use it for his own personal gains.

    Mind you Americans, once he is elected you will then start seeing unbelievable things which is exactly the opposite of what Obama is protraying in this campaign. When that happens there is no turning back and you are stuck with Obama. Please wake up and look at the people who had great influence in his life......Jeremiah Wright, Michelle Obama who has written a thesis in her senior year regarding racism (it will be interesting what derogatory comments she had in that thesis), and many others who are of similar nature.

    Hillary, for whatever human imperfections she has, is transparent and proven to be the better candidate. It is so scary to have someone be nominated whose background and true self will only be uncovered after the campaign. We don't know who Obama is. Conflicting statements.............please review all what was said and done during the campaigns and you will see that Obama has made more conflicting statements than any other candidate combined. Even his inspirational speech on fear wasn't original and he was going to keep it as long as it is not discovered. He made no attribution to the speecah he copied rather implied that it was his own. Who now is the liar? Media has really been unfair to Hillary.

    Obama will have Wright as his speaker for a fund raising event and guess when ...............after the primary at Penn. That way, voters cannot reverse. Please wake up. You don't want a leader who doesn't walk the talk. Praying for the best president and believe Hillary is the better and electable candidate.

    April 11, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  3. Curtis

    Turning America into a Socialist state?

    Why do people think that? Just because the separation of the educated and un-educated keeps growing. Businesses keep reaping record profits, quarter after quarter. Business over individual. Corporation over Individual. Fear is planted into every agenda the government spreads. Occupation of foreign soil lets other countries see how easy it is to get away with invading other countries. And America's main administration completely evading questions about their priorities, defying the will of the greater majority and maintaining a very damaging status quo. I keep thinking that maybe the three-tiered system of government that America has devised needs an overhaul. The word fair keeps coming to mind.

    Sounds like Socialism might be closer than you think.

    As for Clinton or McCain... please read more about both or them.
    They are not the same. And one or the other won't be good for America or for you. Obama isn't a saint or "the Answer".
    Living in this hidden-agenda America doesn't need an answer.
    We all know what is best for America, we just don't do anything to move in that direction.

    April 11, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  4. ITS 3AM IN THE MORNING, HILARY IS STILL LYING

    BILLIARHILIARY ARE TIRED AND NEED TO SLEEP! SO DOES MCCAIN. ALLL THESE MISPEAKING AND MISTATEMENTS ARE BECOMING OUTRAGEOUS. WE NEED SOMEONE COHERENT AND ALERT AT ALL TIMES.

    BIHILIARY'S CHICKENS ARE COMING TO ROOST! THAT IS WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT. THEY KEEP DEFENDING LIES HILARY AND BILL, WE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE TOO SMART–BILL YOU THOUGHT YOU WOULD OUTSMART US? NOT THIS TIME AROUND. YOU GOT YOUR CHANCE WITH MONICA AND WE FORGAVE YOU, THIS TIME YOUR PATTERN OF LYING HAS RESURRECTED AGAIN. NO MORE CLINTONIAN LIES!

    April 11, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  5. Tom in S.A.

    Can't wait for the gov't to tell me how much money I can make.

    April 11, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  6. Sam

    McCain wants to push Obama to a corner where he doesn't challenge him because even when he challenges his policies he pretends it's unfair attacks. Explain yourself McCain...what are you saying on the economy....we want to hear what you've got. Obama is very intelligent and he will challenge your logic big time. Get used to it!

    April 11, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  7. Cosmo

    Yeah! Go Obama! You preach that SOCIALISM!

    Why do people support this man? I love how he says that the government "leaves people on their own". NO KIDDING! THE GOVERNMENT ISN'T A BABYSITTER!

    Go McCain

    April 11, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  8. adams

    OBAMA CONTINUES TO BE A THREAT TO NATIONAL MATURITY.

    AFTER MONTHS OF LIP SINGING EDWARDS AND HILLARY HE IS NOW TAKING ON MCCAIN!

    OBAMA IS A PATRIOT AND A GOOD MAN BUT THIS IS'NT AMATURE NIGHT AT THE ROXY!

    April 11, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. Michael, ATL

    And what do you call giving tax breaks to oil companies that already clear 11 billion a month, Steve? We talk about the moral responsibilities of capitalism but the government jumped in with 30 billion in taxpayer money to bail out Bear Sterns the instant it collapsed. I guess it isn't socialism as long as the wealth is reallocated to bail out bug business, eh?

    If you really believe people should rise and fall on their own merits, live with their choices, and cope with the consequences of a risks they willingly took, then that should go for investment bankers as well as welfare moms.

    April 11, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  10. Florida

    This is an important issue. Last I checked the CEO a Company is one person. It takes an army of skilled personnell to make a company successful, and yes the guidance that a good CEO can provide in getting to that success should be well compensated. However when the CEO is getting paid 20 times what some of the other members of the Co. are being paid it's an even, and prevents the good fortune of the company from trickeling down to everyone els.

    April 11, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  11. Tom

    Obama is saying McCain is all talk? Gimme a break.

    All Obama has going for him is his speaking ability. Take that away, and all you have is a liberal record with little action to show for it.

    McCain '08

    April 11, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  12. neutral

    Of The two:we should avoid "Out of frying pan into the fire"

    April 11, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  13. Jack Hicks, Fort Myers

    To Look Byond....

    The picture you paint of a socialist nation in which the government manages the economy so tightly–it even defines CEO pay for private companies. A government that have us would believe keeping Saddam Hussein in power–is a good thing (even though he was taking pot shots at our fighter jets 1-2 times a week for years, and using oil for food money to sequester funds and buy weapons. A nation that believes a President is a member of an ethno-centric church headed by a racist minister!!!

    I can't look far enough beyond the horizon to envision any of us supporting a government or a President like that in our constitutional and capitalist society.

    April 11, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  14. Bayou Joe

    That's all Obama does, criticize others. He is a Senator. If he wants to call McCain on this issue, do it in the Senate floor. And don't just vote present. We want to know where you stand on the issues.

    April 11, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  15. gene

    Obama keeps "puttin foot in mouth" and needs to stick to his "an inspirational speech" that his speech writers write. When he attack Hillary she most of the time has to "blow it off" or be accused of being negative and or has some racial implications. McCain is not going to blow these remarks off and he is going to answer in kind. If Obama is so lucky to become the nominee this is a very minor taste of what he is going to get in any general election. The Rev. Wright remarks, the Rezko affair, the nuclear thing, the $100,000 contribution and the $ 8,000,000 earmark benefiting a defense contractor,etc. is going to be jammed down his throat and in other places I can not mention. Polls today show that McCain has wiped out a 10 point advantage in the last two weeks and now leads him by 4 points, whereas Hillary has held her own and now leads him by 3 points.

    April 11, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  16. Matt

    To Stacy Clarks: That is quite possibly the best idea I've heard this election. I'm a fierce Obama supporter and I've always thought that I'd go McCain in November if Hillary got the nomination, but I'm starting to realize that if she can't count on my vote, why should Obama be able to count on Hillary votes? So now I completely agree that either way, let's make sure a Democrat gets in office so we don't have another Bush term.

    Obama > Hillary > McCain 08!

    April 11, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  17. William

    I urge the American people to take a LONG, HARD look at what you are being told and what is actually been done to support those promises made by this Administration and it's supporters. Now look at the Candidates apart from what they are doing to win this election.......what do they stand for and what are they saying? Please do your homework and understand that:

    1) It is your duty and right to VOTE, so do so and do your homework beforehand (make sure it is YOUR decision and don't vote for a candidate to spite yours not getting the nomination.......if you BELIEVE in your PARTY, then vote accordingly)
    2) Don't blame anyone else for the state of things if you don't vote

    We all have a stake in this and this will possibly be heralded and go down as one of the most important elections in U.S. history solely because of what is at stake, nevermind that this Administration put us here, but there are too many things affecting Americans and our way of life to ignore voting and truly ensuring our voice as a nation is heard and the RIGHT LEADER is elected based on what this country WANTS.
    REGISTER and ready yourselves to vote, it is supported by all employers and is the right and duty of EVERY AMERICAN ELIGIBLE to do so.

    April 11, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  18. Tom

    Executive pay is extreme in some cases and actually hurts the companies these CEOs work at. I'm glad to see McCain is addressing it, and it's sad that Obama has to attack him for it.

    Obama is not being much of a "uniter" lately, is he?

    Two liberals aren't going to unite this country – only a moderate will be able to.

    McCain '08

    April 11, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  19. Mike

    I do not care for McCain.

    But he is the lesser of the 3 evils running for president and he is too far left of center for my taste. The Dem's will love him.

    Hillary is just power hungry and not to be trusted. She is also too far to the left for my taste.

    OBama is eloquent and a hypnotizing speaker, but the man doesn't have a clue. He says that he will bring the country together, but he has yet to reach across the isle to the Republicans to work together, so how can he make that claim. He is about as far left as it gets. His voting record even puts him left of Ted Kennedy.

    The sad part about this fiasco is that you and me will wind up paying it in the end.

    April 11, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  20. Mike in Houston

    This is the problem with Obama and all politicians. "Excessive" CEO pay is the DIRECT RESULT of Congress' attempt to curb what they viewed as excesses a few years ago. Then, they enacted a stiff income tax for those earning above $1mm (Bill Clinton is apparently exempted).

    Companies responded by tieing CEO pay to company performance using stock options (Congress at that time said that CEO pay too independent of company performance).

    Now Congress is "shocked" to realize that options allow executives to earn more than what they were earning before.

    I am continually amazed at the stupidity of elected officials. America, wait to see the fraud that results from Congress "fixing" the mortgage "crisis".

    McCain is wrong to blame CEOs and companies for responding to stupid legislation.

    Obama is simply, unbelievably and dangerously naive. What a disaster his presidency would be.

    April 11, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  21. Bayou Joe

    Corporations are not government agencies and thank god for that.

    Corporations exist as long as they make a profit. When they don't make profits they go under. 3 Airlines went kaput this week alone.

    CEO's of these private corporations earn their money. I cannot say that for the bureacrats in Washington and the elected officlals such as Senator Obama. He has been on the Government payroll and has not performed his job from day one. He has been on the campaign trail trying to be CEO of America.

    Guess what it will not happen. Obama does not have the qualifications to be CEO of a waste disposal firm, much less CEO
    of America.

    Earn your pay before you begrudge others their pay.

    April 11, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  22. Kennis

    What exactly has Obama done about CEO pay that gives him the moral high ground here .... ummm, well, NOTHING. Once again just more blah, blah, blah talking from an unexperienced and unqualified candidate.

    April 11, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  23. Gary Mutirwara

    I don`t get it.Does Obama want to dictate how much people should get paid?Does he want to dictate the price of everything?America is a free market economy,everything is determined by supply and demand,not the Feds.Obama and Hilary always attack oil companies for making profits and they fail to point out that consumption of oil is going through the roof all over the world.A price increase is inevitable.You would think that someone who went to Harvard would know that.

    Also,you cannot dictate what people should get paid.It is the shareholders that do that,not the government.I would like to know what what his solution is.Why doesn`t he complain about the ridiculous demands that unions demand every year?Last but not least,why doesn`t he start by asking Oprah and those oil executives on his campaign to take a paycut?If you work in corporate world and you support the Democrats,you are biggest idiot that ever lived.

    Toronto,Canada

    April 11, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  24. Tony C.

    Name one rich, powerful man or woman whoever truly had anyone's interest at heart other than their own. The more power and money the have and get, the more they want. Politics is a filthy business. Everyone is in bed with everyone else and as long as they keep the power and the wealth within their own circles they all play the game. TALK! TALK! TALK!

    April 11, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  25. Mike

    To Michael, ATL

    You do realize that all of that profit from the oil companies that you are talking about amouts to only an 8.2% profit magin don't you? That is just above the industry average. By contrast Pharmaceuticals make 18.5%, Banks 18% , House hold and Personal products 11.4% .

    Ah, but how much does a drilling rig cost.

    The truth of the matter is that we wouldn't even be having this discussion if Exon and Mobile hadn't merged to have record profits last year. If you split them back into their separate pieces, then they would be no wear near the top.

    Oh, by the way, you do realize that the federal government makes far more on a gallon of gas than the oil companies do, don't you?

    And they squander every last cent.

    April 11, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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