In his weekly address, President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaCutting through the noise of COVID risk: Real-life consequences of oversimplification Russia-Ukraine conflict threatens U.S. prestige Appeasement doesn't work as American foreign policy MORE hammered the Supreme Court’s decision this week to lift limits on corporate spending on politics, saying it could lead to the unchecked influence of special interests he opposes.
The president harkened back to his 2008 campaign, in which he derided special interest groups and lobbyists and claimed victory over them after his first year in office. The decision this week, Obama warned, could undo that progress.
“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,” he said of the Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. “This ruling strikes at our democracy itself.”
The court’s 5-4 ruling handed down on Thursday dealt a heavy blow to Obama and Democrats, who favor existing caps on corporate spending on politics.
The decision struck down the distinction between individual and corporate expenditures. That could allow corporations and unions to spend an unlimited amount of money on candidates they support or oppose. The court, however, left in place disclosure requirements for corporate and union contributions.
Most Republicans hailed the decision as one that promotes freedom of speech and that could allow for increased spending by political parties.
But Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainVoto Latino CEO: Sinema will have a 'very difficult pathway' in 2024 reelection Meghan McCain rips 'selfish' Sarah Palin for dining out despite COVID-19 diagnosis Poll: Sinema approval higher among Arizona Republicans than Democrats MORE (R-Ariz.), the co-author of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that the decision targeted, decried the Court’s ruling.
Democratic lawmakers, led by Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBreyer retirement throws curveball into midterms Schumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' Voting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? MORE (D-N.Y.), said they would back legislation to limit the impact of the decision. Schumer even called the ruling “un-American.”
Obama in his address backed the efforts of Democrats in Congress as he did earlier several days ago and called for Republicans to join Democrats in supporting the measures.
“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,” he said. “We have begun that work, and it will be a priority for us until we repair the damage that has been done.”
To back up his tough talk, the president cited measures his administration has taken to limit the influence of lobbyists and to increase transparency.
Obama said he “closed the revolving door between lobbying firms and the government” on his first day in office, citing an executive order he signed last January that banned aides from lobbying the administration once they leave his staff, among other limits.
He also cited restrictions on lobbying for stimulus money and releasing the names of White House guests.
“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,” he said, adding that he “can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest” than the Citizens United decision.
Obama also said that Supreme Court ruling could open the door to increased influence for the healthcare, oil and banking industries, a scenario that could threaten three of his most prized legislative goals: healthcare reform, cap-and-trade energy legislation and financial regulatory reform.
The president concluded his address by vowing to do everything he can to limit the impact of the decision.
“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,” he said.