President Obama's weekly address explained on his administration's efforts to combat influence peddling, and the steps it is considering taking in response to the Citizens United decision. It will be interesting to see to what extent these themes are reflected in the State of the Union speech this Wednesday, and how they translate into policy. The Sunlight Foundation will, of course, remain focused on the transparency implications.
Some highlights from the weekly address are after the jump.
First, the President described his lobbying reform efforts over the past year:
On my first day in office, we closed the revolving door between lobbying firms and the government so that no one in my administration would make decisions based on the interests of former or future employers. We barred gifts from federal lobbyists to executive branch officials. We imposed tough restrictions to prevent funds for our recovery from lining the pockets of the well-connected, instead of creating jobs for Americans. And for the first time in history, we have publicly disclosed the names of lobbyists and non-lobbyists alike who visit the White House every day, so that you know what’s going on in the White House – the people’s house.
He then talked about the effects of the Citizens United decision.
This [Citizens United] ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy. 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. Even foreign corporations may now get into the act.
And finally, he indicated that responding to Citizens United is a priority for the administration.
When this ruling came down, I instructed my administration to get to work immediately with Members of Congress willing to fight for the American people to develop a forceful, bipartisan response to this decision. We have begun that work, and it will be a priority for us until we repair the damage that has been done.