President Obama calls out the Republican leadership in Congress for defending the entrenched special interests and the status quo. After the Supreme Court overturned decades of law and precedent in the Citizens United decision, the administration tried to fix the new loopholes in the campaign finance system with a common sense law.
This law would require public disclosure of who funds political ads and it would restrict foreign controlled corporations from spending to influence elections. But, the GOP leadership has blocked a vote on the law in the Senate in hopes that the special interests will reward them by funding attack ads against their opponents.
Click here to read a transcript of President Obama’s weekly address.
Back in January, in my State of the Union Address, I warned of the danger posed by a Supreme Court ruling called Citizens United. This decision overturned decades of law and precedent. It gave the special interests the power to spend without limit – and without public disclosure – to run ads in order to influence elections.
Now, as an election approaches, it’s not just a theory. We can see for ourselves how destructive to our democracy this can become. We see it in the flood of deceptive attack ads sponsored by special interests using front groups with misleading names. We don’t know who’s behind these ads or who’s paying for them. Even foreign-controlled corporations seeking to influence our democracy are able to spend freely in order to swing an election toward a candidate they prefer.
We’ve tried to fix this with a new law – one that would simply require that you say who you are and who’s paying for your ad. This way, voters are able to make an informed judgment about a group’s motivations. Anyone running these ads would have to stand by their claims. And foreign-controlled corporations would be restricted from spending money to influence elections, just as they were before the Supreme Court opened up this loophole.
This is common sense. In fact, this is the kind of proposal that Democrats and Republicans have agreed on for decades. Yet, the Republican leaders in Congress have so far said “no.” They’ve blocked this bill from even coming up for a vote in the Senate. It’s politics at its worst. But it’s not hard to understand why.
Over the past two years, we have fought back against the entrenched special interests – weakening their hold on the levers of power in Washington. We have taken a stand against the worst abuses of the financial industry and health insurance companies. We’ve rolled back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. And we’ve restored enforcement of common sense rules to protect clean air and clean water. We have refused to go along with business as usual.
Now, the special interests want to take Congress back, and return to the days when lobbyists wrote the laws. And a partisan minority in Congress is hoping their defense of these special interests and the status quo will be rewarded with a flood of negative ads against their opponents. It’s a power grab, pure and simple. They’re hoping they can ride this wave of unchecked influence all the way to victory.
What is clear is that Congress has a responsibility to act. But the truth is, any law will come too late to prevent the damage that has already been done this election season. That is why, any time you see an attack ad by one of these shadowy groups, you should ask yourself, who is paying for this ad? Is it the health insurance lobby? The oil industry? The credit card companies?
But more than that, you can make sure that the tens of millions of dollars spent on misleading ads do not drown out your voice. Because no matter how many ads they run – no matter how many elections they try to buy – the power to determine the fate of this country doesn’t lie in their hands. It lies in yours. It’s up to all of us to defend that most basic American principle of a government of, by, and for the people. What’s at stake is not just an election. It’s our democracy itself.