Obama backs 'Oz' reform: Expose wizards behind campaign funding
President Obama says Congress should force special interest groups to show their face when running political campaign attack ads. Opponents call the election funding reform a poorly veiled effort by Democrats to get an edge in tough upcoming elections.
Famously "troubled" by the Supreme Court's allowing corporate cash to sway voters with attack ads, President Obama is fighting back with could be called the "Oz law."
In his weekly Saturday radio and web address, Obama urged Congress to pass a simple, but potentially potent, reform: Tear away the curtain from "shadowy campaign committees" by showing a picture of the CEO, lobbyist or wealthy political donor along with the attack ad.
Obama's support of the Disclose Act (short for "Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections"), introduced Thursday by House and Senate Democrats, comes as the Supreme Court last week argued another case of anonymity in politics: the ability of petitioners to avoid harassment by keeping their signatures secret.
So far, both unions and business interests are grumbling about the proposed law, arguing that it doesn't adequate protect free speech and is a poorly veiled effort by Democrats to stall a Republican come-back in the November elections.
"The American people … have the right to know when some group like 'Citizens for a Better Future' is actually funded entirely by 'Corporations for Weaker Oversight,'" Obama said. "[W]hat 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."
In its Citizens United ruling, the Court essentially OK'd what has amounted to a flow of $45 million in soft money into political TV ads since 2000. But the court also asserted the right of government to force disclosure of top donors behind the ads.
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Beyond forcing donors to "Say cheese," as Sen. Al Franken puts it, the proposed law limits spending by groups that have taken government bail-out money, as well as foreign donors to US elections.
Republicans' willingness to either oppose or go along with the measure will test Washington's political climate, especially as many Americans clamor for a crack down on Wall Street excesses.
But the President said Saturday he expects forceful opposition to the bill as it hits committee hearings this coming week.