Weekly Address: No Corporate Takeover of Our Democracy

The President:
As the political
season heats up, Americans are already being
inundated with the usual phone calls and 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 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.

Maurice Vega

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