Weekly remarks: GOP's Hoekstra says no more bailouts; Obama warns over corporate donations
Over the past few weeks, as we’ve debated reforms to hold Wall Street accountable and protect consumers and small businesses in our financial system, we’ve come face-to-face with the great power of special interests in the workings of our democracy. Of course, this isn’t a surprise. Every time a major issue arises, we’ve come to expect that an army of lobbyists will descend on Capitol Hill in the hopes of tilting the laws in their favor.
That’s one of the reasons I ran for President: because I believe so strongly that the voices of ordinary Americans were being drowned out by the clamor of a privileged few in Washington. And that’s why, since the day I took office, my administration has been taking steps to reform the system. Recently ...
... however, the Supreme Court issued a decision that overturned decades of law and precedent – dealing a huge blow to our efforts to rein in this undue influence. In short, this decision gives corporations and other special interests the power to spend unlimited amounts of money – literally millions of dollars – to affect elections throughout our country. This, in turn, will multiply their influence over decision-making in our government.
In the starkest terms, members will know – when pressured by lobbyists – that if they dare to oppose that lobbyist’s client, they could face an onslaught of negative advertisements in the run up to their next election. And corporations will be allowed to run these ads without ever having to tell voters exactly who is paying for them. At a time when the American people are already being overpowered in Washington by these forces, this will be a new and even more powerful weapon that the special interests will wield.
In fact, it’s exactly this kind of vast power that led a great Republican President – Teddy Roosevelt – to tackle this issue a century ago. warned of the dangers of limitless corporate spending in our political system. 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.”
In the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling, we face a similar challenge. That’s why it’s so important that Congress consider new reforms to prevent corporations and other special interests from gaining even more clout in Washington. And almost all of these reforms are designed to bring new transparency to campaign spending. They are based on the principle espoused by former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis – that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Shadowy campaign committees would have to reveal who’s funding their activities to the American people. And when corporations and other special interests take to the airwaves, whoever is running and funding the ad would have to appear in the advertisement and claim responsibility for it – like a company’s CEO or an organization’s biggest contributor. This will mean citizens can evaluate the claims in these ads with information about an organization’s real motives.
We know how important this is. We’ve all seen groups with benign-seeming names sponsoring television commercials that make accusations and assertions designed to influence the public debate and sway voters’ minds. Now, of course every organization has every right in this country to make their voices heard. But the American people also have the right to know when some group like “Citizens for a Better Future” is actually funded entirely by “Corporations for Weaker Oversight.”
In addition, these reforms would address another troubling aspect of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Under the bill Congress will consider, we’ll make sure that foreign corporations and foreign nationals are restricted from spending money to influence American elections, just as they were in the past – even through U.S. subsidiaries. And we’d keep large contractors that receive taxpayer funds from interfering in our elections as well, to avoid the appearance of corruption and the possible misuse of tax dollars.
Now, we can expect that these proposed changes will be met with heavy resistance from the special interests and their supporters in Congress. But I’m calling on leaders in both parties to resist these pressures. For what we are facing is no less than a potential corporate takeover of our elections. And what is at stake is no less than the integrity of our democracy.
This shouldn’t be a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. This is an issue that goes to whether or not we will have a government that works for ordinary Americans – a government of, by, and for the people. That’s why these reforms are so important. And that’s why I’m going to fight to see them passed into law. Thanks so much. ####
Hi. I’m Congressman Pete Hoekstra from Michigan. Today, President Obama will deliver the commencement address at the University of Michigan, my alma mater. This is a moment filled with optimism and pride – for both the graduates and their families. I join with Michiganders across the state in welcoming President Obama to our home.
We also welcome the opportunity to show the President – first hand – the painful plight of the people of Michigan. Like countless Americans, they face fewer jobs and fewer opportunities today than when he took office. The Democrats have run Congress since 2007, and yet when the residents of Michigan and across America ask themselves are they better off now than they were four years ago, the answer is – inevitably – ‘no.’
The problem is worst among our young people. Many of the graduates President Obama will address will soon learn first-hand how tough it is to find a job in this economy. In fact, the share of young Americans out of work – 37 percent, to be exact – is the highest it’s been in more than 50 years.
Americans are asking ‘where are the jobs?’ Washington’s answer, ‘trust us,’ rings as hollow today as it did a year ago, and a year before that.
In Michigan and in Washington, sprawling government expansion has weighed heavily on the backs of people already pushed to the breaking point.
Enough is enough. We simply can’t go on like this. That’s why Republicans have proposed smart, common-sense solutions to create jobs, reduce spending, and clear the way for American opportunity and ingenuity to lead us to a better future.
But Democrats in Washington have repeatedly chosen to go it alone with their partisan, big-government, tax-borrow-and-spend agenda.
We saw it with the economic stimulus spending, the-cap and-trade bill, with health care, and now seeing it again with the bailout bill President Obama and Democrats are trying to rush through Congress.
The American people have spoken loud and clear: They’ve told us ‘No more bailouts. Never again.’
We’ve heard you, and that’s why Republicans have been working in good faith to guarantee this legislation would protect taxpayers from being forced to bail out Wall Street banks yet again.
Of course, we’ve seen this tired partisan playbook from Washington Democrats before: it’s exactly how a trillion-dollar government takeover of health care that Americans strongly opposed became the law of the land.
An Obama Administration report released last week says that under the new health care law, national health care costs will increase – increase – by $311 billion over the next 10 years. A month ago, they said it would lower costs. Today, they admit it will increase costs. Why didn’t the American people get the real truth before the bill was passed?
Need another example? Remember how President Obama pledged that his trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ would create jobs immediately and keep unemployment below eight percent? Well, our economy has lost millions of jobs since then and unemployment is near double-digits nationwide – and above 14 percent here in Michigan.
The one thing the American people wanted out of the ‘stimulus’ was jobs – it didn’t happen.
The one thing the American people wanted out of health care reform was lower costs – it didn’t happen.
The American people want financial reforms that end the bailouts, don’t kill jobs, and address the root causes of the financial crisis. But do you think we can trust Washington to deliver?
The House passed a bill that makes the bailouts permanent, and the Senate bill kills jobs, hurts small businesses on Main Street, and does nothing to address the government mortgage companies that caused the meltdown by giving too many high-risk loans to people who couldn’t afford it.
Republicans are standing with the American people and the people of Michigan by fighting for an end to permanent bailouts, ending wasteful Washington spending, and proposing a plan that would address the root causes of the financial crisis. We are standing for real solutions.
Today’s graduates at the University of Michigan are looking for the economic freedom and opportunity of every previous American generation. Let’s give it to them. Thanks for listening. ####
Photo credits, from top: Pete Souza / White House; NBC; Molly Riley / Reuters