May 1st, 2010
10:54 AM ET
13 years ago

Obama promotes proposed campaign finance law

Washington (CNN) - President Obama used his weekly internet and radio address to explain and promote a new campaign finance bill.

Related: Campaign finance proposal targets corporations

(Read Obama's full remarks after the jump)

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Weekly Address
Washington, DC

Over the past few weeks, as we’ve debated reforms to hold Wall Street accountable and protect consumer and small businesses in our financial system, we’ve come face-to-face with the great power of special interests in the workings of our democracy. Of course, this isn’t a surprise. Every time a major issue arises, we’ve come to expect that an army of lobbyists will descend on Capitol Hill in the hopes of tilting the laws in their favor.

That’s one of the reasons I ran for President: because I believe so strongly that the voices of ordinary Americans were being drowned out by the clamor of a privileged few in Washington. And that’s why, since the day I took office, my administration has been taking steps to reform the system. Recently, however, the Supreme Court issued a decision that overturned decades of law and precedent – dealing a huge blow to our efforts to rein in this undue influence. In short, this decision gives corporations and other special interests the power to spend unlimited amounts of money – literally millions of dollars – to affect elections throughout our country. This, in turn, will multiply their influence over decision-making in our government.

In the starkest terms, members will know – when pressured by lobbyists – that if they dare to oppose that lobbyist’s client, they could face an onslaught of negative advertisements in the run up to their next election. And corporations will be allowed to run these ads without ever having to tell voters exactly who is paying for them. At a time when the American people are already being overpowered in Washington by these forces, this will be a new and even more powerful weapon that the special interests will wield.

In fact, it’s exactly this kind of vast power that led a great Republican President – Teddy Roosevelt – to tackle this issue a century ago. He warned of the dangers of limitless corporate spending in our political system. 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.”

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling, we face a similar challenge. That’s why it’s so important that Congress consider new reforms to prevent corporations and other special interests from gaining even more clout in Washington. And almost all of these reforms are designed to bring new transparency to campaign spending. They are based on the principle espoused by former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis – that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Shadowy campaign committees would have to reveal who’s funding their activities to the American people. And when corporations and other special interests take to the airwaves, whoever is running and funding the ad would have to appear in the advertisement and claim responsibility for it – like a company’s CEO or an organization’s biggest contributor. This will mean citizens can evaluate the claims in these ads with information about an organization’s real motives.

We know how important this is. We’ve all seen groups with benign-seeming names sponsoring television commercials that make accusations and assertions designed to influence the public debate and sway voters’ minds. Now, of course every organization has every right in this country to make their voices heard. But the American people also have the right to know when some group like “Citizens for a Better Future” is actually funded entirely by “Corporations for Weaker Oversight.”

In addition, these reforms would address another troubling aspect of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Under the bill Congress will consider, we’ll make sure that foreign corporations and foreign nationals are restricted from spending money to influence American elections, just as they were in the past – even through U.S. subsidiaries. And we’d keep large contractors that receive taxpayer funds from interfering in our elections as well, to avoid the appearance of corruption and the possible misuse of tax dollars.

Now, we can expect that these proposed changes will be met with heavy resistance from the special interests and their supporters in Congress. But I’m calling on leaders in both parties to resist these pressures. For what we are facing is no less than a potential corporate takeover of our elections. And what is at stake is no less than the integrity of our democracy. 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 government that works for ordinary Americans – a government of, by, and for the people. That’s why these reforms are so important. And that’s why I’m going to fight to see them passed into law.

Thanks so much.

Filed under: Campaign finance • President Obama
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. dan smith

    How about following the current laws like not taking money from companies from other companies. Oops forgot the laws don't apply to democrats.

    May 1, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  2. I won't vote for him again

    IObama took alot of money from Wallstreet and Aipac and now he's making it seem like he didn't. What a phony

    May 1, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  3. Mike

    Oh yes anything to limit campaign contributions for Republicans but you can bet his contributors like unions and Goldman Sachs will be allowed to continue to contribute to demorats. nobamby got almost a million dollars from Goldman Sachs and more than that from unions. He is owned by unions and left wing wingnuts.

    May 1, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  4. katiec

    Without a doubt the republicans will obstruct this long overdue reform to special interests, big business controlling our country. Their fight against finace reform is just additional proof as to where they stand in supporting the American people.
    Deregulation, or ignoring regulations has almost brought our country to it's knees and we, the American people, need to take our country back, regardless of the republicans obstruction.

    May 1, 2010 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  5. Nadeem

    This is the real reform that is needed. We send these guys to Washington, and then the lobbyist start doing there thing and before you know it it represent the lobbyist.

    This is the biggest piece of reform, it will help everything.

    May 1, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  6. dennisintn

    roflmfao, does obama think anyone would he would stick to his new rules anymore than he did during the 08 election. one day he and mccain are agreeing on campaign contribution rules, and less than a week later, zero was breaking every tenet of the agreement, and crowing about it.
    alinsky/chicago thuggery campaign promises aren't worth the carbon dioxide created to say them out loud.

    May 1, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  7. abe

    Way to go Mr. president. It is about time someone tries to put campaign finance reform into the lime light. Our politics is not for sale, not only for the privileged but to ordinary Americans who have political aspirations. The decision by the Supreme court simply Says the average American who has political aspirations has no chance. We are being drowned by big corporations and donors. Ordinary American have voices and it is about time we should be heard and not our decisions is affected by by the rich and the influential. This a government made by the people, should work for the people and not take people rights to vote and influence the outcome. God Bless our country.

    May 1, 2010 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  8. Larry

    Nice job again Mr. President.

    OBAMA/BIDEN till 2016.

    May 1, 2010 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  9. Tom in Delaware

    Let'me guess...if you donate your money to Obama it's OK....everybody else – not so much.

    May 1, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  10. Marshall

    I think this makes sense and no less the integrity of our democracy is in contention here.

    May 1, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  11. addon

    This is as a result of a activist right wing SC. Since when does a corporation have the same rights as an individual? (as mentioned the bill of rights)

    We have the right to own and bear arms. So does this mean that Exxon should be allowed to have army, armed and weaponized to protect itself? That's a slippery slope that simply cannot be recovered once implemented. The competition can actually shoot at each other in executing their rights to protect themselves.

    I have studied this issue in my undergrad and advanced studies and it just doesn't look positive – at ALL.

    VOTE out GOPers until they learn civility, accountability and responsibility. Certainly don't elect them to SCOTUS

    May 1, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  12. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Cool. Personally, I prohibit "campaign contributions,"–i.e., bribes–from any collective entity. No corporations–and no unions. No more "contributions" from SEIU, no more "contributions" from AFSCME.

    I wonder if Obama would support that proposal. Is his intent truly to give people–individuals–more say over how government is run? Or is it to hurt Republicans by limiting Republican-friendly corporate "contributions" while profiting Democrats by leaving alone Democrat-friendly union "contributions?"

    May 1, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  13. phoenix86

    I wonder if this fool will ever get around to addressing the drug war that is going on at the border. I think not. Real decisions are "above his paygrade".

    May 1, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  14. Michael

    Thank you, Mr. President! Anyone who thinks that unlimited money spent in the pursuit of unlimited greed and self-interest is in the best interest of this great country is delusional.

    May 1, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  15. Really...campaign finance reform...,,

    Now...and before he was raking it in by the millions he Obama was against it....We say the classic 'flip–flop....!!

    May 1, 2010 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  16. Gatlin

    censorship yet again, I guess movin on and acorn spin offs will be the only ones who can advertise, using highly veiled tactics to hide their backers.

    May 1, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  17. Mark from Louisiana

    As long as the crooked unions can contribute to campaigns, corporations should have the same rights.

    May 1, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Let see whether the GOP will say no to Campaign finance reform!

    May 1, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  19. Marcelin Lovismartin

    I am very tired of hearing the word "Reform". Stop that Reform-spree.

    May 1, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  20. Marry

    Dear Mr. President, so well said!!!
    I hope Congress will act and the public will support, to put very strict new laws in place. Or should it say in the future:” May we introduce to you, dear fellow American, the best President, Senate and Congress SPECIAL INTEREST MONEY could buy?”

    May 1, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  21. Brian Steele

    Financial reform is essential to America's future prosperity; without it we will be unable to compete in emering markets, thus crteating an econmic disadvantage for Main Street Americans to compete within the 21st century global economy.

    May 1, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  22. Annie, Atlanta

    I have to wonder what the Supreme Court was thinking. Did they know they were opening our electoral process to funding from foreign countries, some with an axe to grind? I don't want to think they're stupid or lack the ability to look forward at the ramifications of their decisions. But I'm left with those questions just the same, and it circles around to incompetence with someone(s) on the bench, somehow. It's baffling. Am I wrong?

    May 1, 2010 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  23. Brian Steele

    Sorry, I misread; I thought the article was addressing financial reform.

    May 1, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  24. Kevin

    This "cretin" backed-out of an agreement he had with McCain to use the rules of the McCain-Feingold (campaign finance) bill during the last POTUS election, and he has the nads to propose this??

    What happened is that McCain was handcuffed to fight the onslaught of Obama money, which included the insanely narcissistic "Obama Channel" (you didn't forget about that did you??)

    I am here to tell you, his backing out the McCain-Feingold bill caused me to despise this "thing" called Obama, and now he doesn't like the new rules (that helped him get elected) so he's going to change it?

    Narcissist in chief – indeed!

    May 1, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  25. Jeff Spangler

    This kerfuffle over reversing Citizens United is an admission that American voters are too stupid and uninformed to make independent voting decisions. They need to be protected by the Nanny State from the BS political spin served up by corporate issue ads. As Alito mouthed at the State of the Union, it is simply "not true" that the opinion reversed a long trend of election law. The Junior Lecturer in Constitutional Law knows that's the case but is in full populist pandering mode.

    May 1, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
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