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Obama: Campaign Finance Ruling 'A Powerful Blow'

  • Kent Klein

President Barack Obama discusses the recent Supreme Court decision on campaign finance during his weekly radio,TV and Internet address, 23 Jan 2010

President Barack Obama discusses the recent Supreme Court decision on campaign finance during his weekly radio,TV and Internet address, 23 Jan 2010

President Barack Obama says Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance will damage the country's democracy and his domestic agenda. The president says he will respond with legislation.

The Supreme Court voted 5-to-4 Thursday to strike down decades-old limits on corporate and labor union spending in U.S. political campaigns. The ruling overturns a longstanding decision that the government could bar corporations and unions from using money from their treasuries to pay for campaign ads.

The court's majority opinion says the old law violated constitutional free-speech rights.

President Obama, in his weekly radio and Internet address, is sharply criticizing the ruling, calling it devastating to the public interest.

"This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy," he said. "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 do not."

Mr. Obama says the ruling is a powerful blow to his administration's efforts to rein in corporate influence, and will further hinder his efforts to reform the U.S. health care system.

"It will make it more difficult to pass common-sense laws to promote energy independence because even foreign entities would be allowed to mix in our elections," he added. "It would give the health insurance industry even more leverage to fend off reforms that would protect patients."

The president says he will prepare legislation to blunt the effects of the high court ruling.

"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."

The Supreme Court decision was Mr. Obama's second political setback of the week. On Tuesday, voters in the Northeastern state of Massachusetts elected a Republican, Scott Brown, to fill a Senate seat which Democrats had held for decades. The loss is seen as a serious blow to the president's health care reform effort.

In the Republican Party's weekly message, House of Representatives Minority Leader John Boehner says Mr. Obama's focus on health reform is making the nation's 10 percent unemployment rate worse.

"My home state of Ohio has endured nine straight months of double-digit unemployment, and for the better part of those nine months, Democrats in Washington have been focused on this government takeover of health care that working families just cannot afford and want nothing to do with," he said.

Boehner says with the president's health care initiative in danger, Democrats on Capitol Hill will probably make crooked deals and buy votes.

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