August 21st, 2010
11:27 AM ET
11 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. harold

    The republicans are a Corporate Party... Wall street to the core... bail em out Republicans...

    August 21, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  2. guy from NM

    With his help too. Why is he crying now? As corrupt as the republicans.

    Politicians are elected by the citizens, but, work for their masters the corporate world

    August 21, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  3. The reality is...

    Yeah, we can't afford a corporate takeover of our Democracy, it interferes with this liberal's Communist takeover. Good grief, will November ever come soon enough?

    August 21, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  4. PJ States

    Obomber's idea of good governance is to have the unions, ACORN, SEIU, NOW, etc, run the country. How could that possibly be better than producers in the corporate world?

    August 21, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  5. David

    "Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people." Teddy Roosevelt said this, and I believe that some corporations, banks, insurance firms, and their lobbyists are this shadow government and their Republican lap dogs is its visible face, trying to make ethnocentrism and greed the law of the land.

    August 21, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  6. BMF

    Have you ever noticed that when the Supreme Court rules in favor of a law the Democrats support they portray it as brilliant and infallible; but if the Supreme Court rules against them, they throw a tantrum like a little kid and then try to convolute new laws to get what they want.

    The gun ban in Chicago gets overturned, so Chicago now wants to ban gun ranges because you have to go to a gun range for one hour of instruction before getting permit to buy a gun. Get it? ban gun ranges to make it difficult to get a permit. Funny, they never wanted to ban gun ranges before.

    Here is a fact for everyone. The government shall make no law that infringing the freedom of speech or freedom of the press.

    What do you think a law is that prohibits free speech and political ads prior to elections? Doesn't that sound a lot like a law that infringes on freedom of speech and the press? Hmmmm?

    By the way, the proposed law the Dems want to pass allows unions, the NRA, and many others to avoid the prohibition. Do you call that equal protection under the law as well?

    August 21, 2010 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  7. al.nozzi

    Wake up AMERICA,
    Corporate America is running and ruining America...They don't even have to give their corporation name to influence "America's culpable voters but that's the way it's always been,so let's keep letting the millionaires run and ruin our country.

    August 21, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  8. Keith in Austin

    What else would you expect this Bozo and America's Poster Boy for Socialism to say!

    Saul Alinsky and Karl Marx must be so proud of Barry right now.

    August 21, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  9. Nate

    I doubt he is so passionate about the undeniable affects of unions on elections. Im sure a lot of people could agree if there werent obvious political motivations behind the demoncrat "solutions".

    August 21, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  10. Newbie

    Still learning about politics so forgive my imperceptivity. The first thing I noticed unfortunately is the lack of "complete political coverage" on the part of the self designated "Best Political Team" from CNN as this report is without any sober representation of the other side's views, without which I'm left feeling obtuse and ignorant. So I'm forced to find the rest of the facts from another source before I can feel confident I have all that I need to form a knowledgeable opinon. Next, America was founded as a Republic, a Democratic Republic yes, but not a direct Democracy. That means that we vote for those who we feel will represent us best in Congress. The methods on which we chose to influence those who's resopnsibility it is to vote in Congress, and to be a voice for us on the bench as a representative in public office, is just that, a choice. Made by those who care deeply for their country and want their interests whether they be deemed special or otherwise to be taken in to consideration as one of the people of which the government is to be made up of, by and for. Due to the reasons stated above I cannot conclude much from this speech. Except that even the President is still just a politician and while constitutionally incapable of bad oratory he has still divided and turned everyone here into name callers and mudslingers on probably the least paid attention to topic going forward to the election. I value everyones opinion but I've never known a time when the masses have been pitted so much against eachother. I just hope that it's in this Presidents head to lead by example the ways in which we all are alike which makes us strong, but blaming the Republicans or the Democrates and pointing fingers at the last administration seems to only make us focus on our differences and that always leads to division and weakness and trust me there are plenty of countries lining up to take our place or worse, take us out.

    August 21, 2010 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
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