August 21st, 2010
11:27 AM ET
10 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.

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soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Justen in Florida

    Does this guy whine alot or what!?!

    Hey, btw, all you libtard bloggers, how much the DNC paying you to post your hate?

    August 21, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  2. Steve

    Does he no have this backwards?

    August 21, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  3. Michael

    Yes, transparency. Just like the transparency in the health care reform law. Or financial reform. Or the stimulus bill. Promises of coverage on CSPAN, wasn't it? No more back room deals, right?President or not, disrespectful or not, this guy IS a liar.

    August 21, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  4. Oldtimer

    I think it is better for free enterprise to take over our democracy than it is for government to take over our industries thus ruining free enterprise.

    August 21, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  5. GI Joe

    The republicans and tea-baggers worship one god - money (for their pockets ONLY).

    August 21, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  6. GoldMember

    Justen: Are you a tea bagger or a Kolaid drinker?

    August 21, 2010 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  7. Anonymous

    Business is designed to supply goods and service and help drive an economy. It has no place in social issues and for that reason, must be kept out of politcs and influencing who is elected.
    Businesses agenda is profit, no taxes and therefore no benefits for the average man. the politicains they back to achieve this will naturlally be bad for citizens in general.

    August 21, 2010 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  8. Sticky G

    Ha ha. The birthers, baggers, and death panel crowd seem really put off by this so Pres. Obama is clearly on the right track. They can't defend the corporate takeover of the US so they fall back to the usual ravings about Pres. Obama being a socialist muslim Kenyan who wants to destroy the US.

    August 21, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  9. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Corporations have been hijacking elections for years not only from within this country but outside as well. Some of these foreign corporations don't pay taxes in this U.S. but enjoy the wealth of doing business with Republicans at taxpayers expense, it's time to stop them. It's disturbing that our Justices ruled that this is OK.

    August 21, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  10. Chris

    Over 80% of Americans thought the Supreme Court decision allowing corporate finances in elections was as travesty. But because Obama is trying to do something about it, suddenly opposing corporate money to influence elections is bad. Where are all the "they're shoving something down Americans throats that Americans dont want" and "Obama never listens to the Amerian people" crowd? Anything Obama is for, the same group on the right is always against it – no matter what merits it might possess – for no other reason than Obama is for it. It's an irrational, knee jerk hatred that blinds them to any sense of reason or perspective.

    August 21, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  11. Drew, FL

    @Justen: This coming from one of the rank and file reich-wing haters who still believes the lie about WMDs? You are not smarter than a five grader.

    @Michael: All politicians lie. It's just a matter of degrees. See above statement to Justen about WMDs. That was the whole Bush/Cheney Administration. See where that got us.

    @Oldtimer: What have you been smoking? The corporations already have incredible influence over our democracy, vis a vis lobbyists. You want to give them more control over our lives? Remember WE THE PEOPLE? We are supposed to be the government. Did you get to old to remember that?

    True democracy has become the umbrage of this radicalized right. Brought to you by the corporate fascists of the Rupert Murdoch media empire.

    It's all about the money and power.

    August 21, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  12. Anonymous

    Michael- you seem to have been served the cool-aid.
    This presidents actions are far more transparent than the last two administrations. Transparancy does not mean every meeting is going to be taped.
    Fewer backroom deals have taken place – due to outcriies by people- than in the past.
    and moeinportantly, his main election promises are either complete -pullout of combat troops from Iraq and healthcare, Financial reform.
    and other are in the works- repeal of Don't Ask don't Tell- job creation through the stimulous ( only about half the money has actually been spent so far.).
    If there was no road block in the Senate, we would have an additional 435 bill passed or denied based on those submitted by the house.
    If you are going to call Mr Obama a liar, I can only imagine what you think or should think of Mr Bush.

    August 21, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  13. Scott

    PBHObama is all about the perpetuation of cynicism and special interests. What we can't afford is the government takeover of corporate America, but it's too late. All that's left is to try to roll this back in Novermber.

    August 21, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  14. U.S. Common Sense

    That's right, let's have a Union labor take over of "this Republic" instead.

    August 21, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  15. Patricio

    Mr. Obama- please denounce the Unions that support the Democrats. The facts are the Democrats must be defeated in November for the sake of this great country. I have never been energized to vote as I am now. There are millions and millions and millions of Americans who wish tomorrow was November 2!!!

    August 21, 2010 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  16. T.H.

    Anybody that argues with this logic is totally oblivious. How blind can you people be? If the most blatant threat to our constitutional rights were to occur, and this President were to oppose it, you naysayers would invariably cover your ears & holler out your infantile screams of protest. This country is full of dumba**es. & You all want Bush back –

    August 21, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  17. NVa Native

    Obama is correct again.
    How can the party of NO responsibility challenge such an effective and hard working President.
    The party of NO work will be crushed come November.
    Such a turn around from when the Republicans tried so hard to destroy our country.

    August 21, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  18. diridi

    Pres. obama, God bless you....Please Get "Banks" esply, Wachovia, and wells-forgo. They are charging outrageously, on my checking account...please, get them and put who is in this nasty trick to make money out of poor, jail mercy.....we are in Democratic nation...God bless our nation...the USA!!

    August 21, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  19. Panterazero

    Corporate usurpation of our democracy began systematically in the thirties - think Prescott Bush, GHWB's father - and was in full roar by the time of Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex, which ITSELF was over fifty years ago. Fifty years and vast fortunes can accomplish a lot of takeover.

    I miss Eisenhower; both my parents voted for him, both times. I wish there were ANY elected Republicans with his integrity and gravitas today.

    August 21, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  20. B

    Corporate control of everything by Money is destroying this country. It will have not been the first time in history and it is a downward slide of our Democracy to a third world status!

    August 21, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. Steve

    The ones who are mostly whining are the Rupubs. Throw anything at the wall- make stuff up- just because they lost power... It's sickening.
    Obama's a muslum, he wasn't born in this country, GM should fail, your taxes will go up, he's losing the war, he didn't stop the oil leak, he's too soft on BP, he's too hard on BP, he's gonna pull the plug on Granny... The sky ins falling and Obama is to blame. Floods in Pakistan- must be Obama's fault. Dandelions in the yard? Obama!!

    Any rational human being would NEVER let Repubs get anywhere NEAR any decision making post with the foolish BS they spread. But of course, this is America and most of the public seems to suffer from ADD and have memory loss... Careful consumers, we are not. So these manipulative Sobs have a chance... They should be ashamed, but... Having a conscious must be for us suckers

    August 21, 2010 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  22. Sally

    @Michael: Much of the health care debate WAS on CSPAN. Sorry you weren't sent a personal invitation to watch, and of course, the Fox Folks didn't want you to know.
    @Justen: No one pays Democrats to post...that's an RNC specialty. We post what we believe, not what the media tells us. We do research, we do not accept things blindly that are told us from either side.
    @oldtimer: Really? You think corporations are free enterprise? Corporations are about the bottom line, which is why they have moved so many jobs away from the US. They demand tax breaks, hurting local economies, then move jobs, hurting locals more. The government does not OWN any industry. GM and Chrysler have repaid their LOANS. There was no takeover, despite Beck's assertions that we are becoming communist. He is the liar, not Obama.

    Please people, research. Think. Vote.

    August 21, 2010 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  23. JJ in NY

    Why not, barack ? Our "democracy" has already be hijacked.

    Obama has allowed the unions and special interests to dictate his liberal/progressive agenda.

    August 21, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  24. a in austin

    Corporate America is one reason the economy is floundering. The top 2% of the wealthy hold about 65% of GDP and about 80% of stocks and bonds in this country – they are just sitting on their huge profits, republicans are against allowing credit for small businesses and entrepeneurs – all just waiting and hoping a republican is voted back in office. If you think they are for 'We the People" look and THINK again (for yourself).

    August 21, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. Sorensen

    Every single time some idiotic corporation spends a ton of money,
    (which is payed for by the consumers anyway) on some stupid and
    ambitious politician, tje politician should be hung out in public for
    total ridicule, and the dumb corporation should have its products
    rejected and thrown out of the stores.
    This sick idea is a classic piece of garbage from the old, scared
    and incompetent farts of the GOP.

    August 21, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
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