WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Saturday sharply criticized a Supreme Court decision easing limits on campaign spending by corporations and labor unions, saying he couldn’t “think of anything more devastating to the public interest.” He also suggested the ruling could jeopardize his domestic agenda.
In its 5-4 decision this week, the high court overturned two decisions and threw out parts of a 63-year-old law that said companies and unions can be prohibited from using their own money to produce and run campaign ads that urge the election or defeat of particular candidates by name.
Portraying himself as aligned with the people and not special interests, Obama said the decision was unacceptable.
“This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy,” the president said in his weekly radio and Internet message. “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 don’t.”
Obama said that means public servants who stand up to Wall Street banks, oil companies, health insurers and other powerful interests could find themselves under attack when election time rolls around.
“I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest,” he said. “The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.”
The court issued its ruling just as crucial midterm election campaigns are getting under way and as Obama’s Democratic Party feels the pressure from a string of losses in New Jersey, Virginia and in Massachusetts, where this week Republican Scott Brown came from behind to win a Senate seat Democrats had held for decades.
Obama said the decision will make it harder to enact financial reforms, close tax loopholes, promote energy independence and protect patients from insurance company abuses — key elements of his domestic agenda.
“We don’t need to give any more voice to the powerful interests that already drown out the voices of everyday Americans,” Obama said. “And we don’t intend to.”
He said he has instructed his administration to work with Congress to “fight for the American people” and develop a “forceful bipartisan response” to the decision.
“It will be a priority for us until we repair the damage that has been done,” Obama said.
On the Net:
Obama address: www.whitehouse.gov