Obama again slams GOP for holding up campaign finance bill

By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 18, 2010; 6:21 AM

For the second time in a month, President Obama on Saturday used his weekly address to call on Senate Republicans to stop blocking legislation that would require companies, unions and other interest groups to explicitly identify themselves in any campaign advertising they fund.

As the November election nears, Obama has increasingly used his radio and Internet address to make a political statement, and his remarks Saturday echoed a theme he used in a campaign fundraising speech earlier in the week.

He has repeatedly cast a January Supreme Court ruling that, for the first time, allows corporations, unions and other organizations to spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of candidates as a grave threat to fair elections during a critical midterm campaign season. The address drew an angry response from Republicans, who accused Obama of caring only about his party's hold on Congress.

"What's at stake is not just an election," Obama said in the address. "It's our democracy itself."

Obama said that, since he took office, Democrats have "fought back against the entrenched special interests, weakening their hold on the levers of power in Washington."

"Now, the special interests want to take Congress back, and return to the days when lobbyists wrote the laws," Obama said. "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."

Congressional Democrats have proposed legislation to tighten some of the disclosure requirements that the Supreme Court's ruling loosened.

But Senate Democrats failed in July to muster enough votes to bring the legislation, known as the Disclose Act, to a vote, with Republicans opposing the measure as a bloc.

"This is common sense," Obama said. "In fact, this is the kind of proposal that Democrats and Republicans have agreed on for decades."

But, he said, "Republican leaders in Congress have so far said 'no.' "

"It's politics at its worst," Obama said. "But it's not hard to understand why."

The Supreme Court's ruling infuriated Obama, who took the unusual step of publicly rebuking the justices in his State of the Union address as they sat in the front rows. Chief Justice John Roberts later called the comments inappropriate from a president in such a setting.

Obama used the case in a weekly address last month to criticize Republicans for obstructing the Disclose Act's passage. The bill would, among other things, require organizations involved in campaigns to identify large donors, and to make them known explicitly in campaign ads.

But Republican leaders have said the Democrats are pushing the legislation only to preserve their majorities in the House and Senate, and they criticized Obama for bringing up the issue repeatedly at a time when most Americans are concerned about the economy.

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, "In the middle of the worst recession in memory, Americans want us to focus on jobs. But for the second time in four weeks, the president used his weekly address to promote a partisan campaign bill."

"By focusing on that partisan effort to rig the fall elections rather than the stagnant economy, Democrats are proving once again that the jobs they care about most are their own," McConnell said. "The President says this bill is about transparency. It's about transparency, all right: It's a transparent effort to help themselves ahead of an election in which they clearly can't run on their record."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company