Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Obama overstates impact of Supreme Court decision

In his weekly address, Obama criticized a Supreme Court ruling that struck down some campaign finance laws.

On Jan. 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling striking down barriers to corporations spending money directly from their own treasuries to influence elections. The 5-4 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission drew immediate fire from President Barack Obama.

"This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy," the president said in his weekly radio address on Jan. 23. "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. That means that any public servant who has the courage to stand up to the special interests and stand up for the American people can find himself or herself under assault come election time."

Obama then offered up a specific claim about the impact of the Supreme Court's decision. "Even foreign corporations may now get into the act. I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. 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."

We decided to investigate whether the justices' ruling did in fact open the door to foreign companies spending freely on American campaigns. We found Obama was exaggerating the impact of the ruling.