January 23rd, 2010
11:21 AM ET
12 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. Jill-IN

    This decision is bad for all U.S. citizens and for our children and grandchildren. It doesn't matter what party you belong to – you are a person and an American – you should care about this. Do you really think a corporation should have the same voice you have; correct that it would be a much louder voice and it will drown us all out. Corporations are things – entities yes -but a thing. Corporations will never be mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, or loving grandparents. Corporations will NEVER have to go to boot camp and become soldiers to defend our country. Corporations will NEVER die for this country. Now tell me, do you really believe they should have the same standing as you when it comes to this matter? And remember, many U.S. corporations are subsidiaries of companies from other countries who care little for our best interests.

    January 23, 2010 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  2. Albo58

    Lobbyists from health care "reform", Cap&Trade, and all the Union thugs bankrolled this inept President and now he's worried about the easing some campaign finance regulations??? What a total hypocrit!

    January 23, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  3. rodeo clown

    If this decision is allowed to stand, America mght as well consider itself to be a "Communist" Country!!! People worry about Obama promoting "socialism"??????? This ruling will simply let the FAT CATS of America, those with TONS of Money, and so called POWER, destroy the very core of our Constitution and what our founding fathers established in 1776! It seems that America just keeps taking steps backwards rather than forwards! What an opportune time for the Conservative Supreme Court Judges to "stick it to" the poor, the impoverished, the low income, and sometimes middle class people, along with children, who live in America!! Ronald Reagan stated "We are a shining City on a hill"! With this decision, America will become a nation that is so "tarnished" with fraud, and corrpution, and the BUYING of political candidates, we will NEVER see any possibility of living the American Dream!

    January 23, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  4. Will

    I love how all the liberal comments open bash the republicans as "radical right wing conservatives" and say the conservatives are ruining the country. This ruling was about protecting 1st amendment rights, not about compaign donations. The corps. are limited on how much they can actually give to a candidate, and now they can also publicly express their opinions. As far as ruining the country....look no farther than the liberal agenda of giving amnesty and bringing in more immigrants. With 12% unemployment, you liberals think its good for the country to give amnesty to illegals and put 20 million more people in the job market? AND increase green cards? Someone failed economics in college.....assuming you went.

    January 23, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  5. wbn

    Who cares what a president thinks about a Supreme Court ruling? Other presidents understood the separation of powers and let the Court speak for itself. I think Obama really sees himself as above all other American politicians, branches of government, and even the Supreme Court. He just hasn't learned–even with the last week's developments–that he may be charismatic, but he is not a god or even a superman to the people.

    January 23, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  6. Mark

    How can he complain about this when he refused to go by the McCain/Fiengold amendment?

    Once again it's do like I say, not how I do because I'm better than you are.

    January 23, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  7. Willy Brown

    Democrats only like free speech when it favors them. Sorry comrade Barry.

    January 23, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  8. colin

    just like to inquire from o few of you out there, HOW exactly will big companies with billions pf dollars backing whoever they choose help free speech? companies can say whatever they want i just dont want joe candidate over here wearing a budwiser cap and a lapelle pin that says bank of america on it blowing some other candidate out of the water because his campaign outspent it by millions. thats what i worry about, in fact i'm not sure why anyone would oppose this. a government for the people by the people, not for the people by fortune 500 companies

    January 23, 2010 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  9. aware

    This is good news – you can no longer control the message! 🙂

    January 23, 2010 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  10. Perusing-through


    #1 – This decision is not good for Conservatives or Liberals, Democrats or Republicans, Independents or Moderates.

    #2 – The decision leads to American middle-class getting used by big corporate, and spit to side like road-kill when finished.

    #3 – This decision hands too much power to the Enrons, Exxons, and Haliburtons; power they will use to set Tea-Baggers and Liberals against one another, while big corporate sweeps away the remnants of America's middle-class.

    January 23, 2010 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  11. Indy

    Wow a corporate run government, just the way Bush and Cheney like it. The corporate greed is what brought down the country and now they can finish Joe middle class right off. How very Republican to have coprporate senators. I guess the end is near for all of middle class.Canada look out for a huge population surge of people that want to earn an honest living and have medi care.

    January 23, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  12. Michael from Ventura

    United Corporations of America.....And, why do you conservatives hate this country? Your comments (as usual) are absurd.You can't love America and put her first when you hate the majority of her people!!

    January 23, 2010 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  13. pissed off independent

    I Absolutely dislike all this negative talk about Obama! He is the fairist president we have ever had and the rich white coservitives wont give him a chance... Republicans fuked this country for eight years and now undermine our elected president by disregarding whats right and voting on party lines only... ima vote johanns from Nebraska out and I hope Ben runs back for his seat which he handed to johanns and johanns stabbed him in the back afterwards... I hate republicans.

    January 23, 2010 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
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