Bailouts

Obama Bemoans the Stampede While Juicing Up His Cattle Prod

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Yesterday President Obama called Citizens United "a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics" and "a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans." Since Obama is one of the main people spurring the stampede and facilitating the drowning out, you have to give him points for chutzpah, especially since these comments come less than a week after he blatantly pandered to one of those powerful interests by cutting a deal with the labor unions that objected to his proposed tax on "Cadillac" medical benefits, in the midst of a much-ballyhooed spending binge that has stimulated lobbying more than the economy, and while he is trying to salvage a health care plan that has garnered much support from powerful special interests (including those nasty insurance companies), who have outspent opponents on advertising by 5 to 1.

The quote about "the voices of ordinary Americans" appears in the main New York Times story about Citizens United right after reporter Adam Liptak notes that "the decision will be felt most immediately in the coming midterm elections, given that it comes just two days after Democrats lost a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and as popular discontent over government bailouts and corporate bonuses continues to boil." In other words, the Supreme Court's decision is expected to help interest groups communicate the public's discontent about the health care legislation and corporate bailouts (of "Wall Street banks" as well as automakers) that Obama enthusiastically supported. It seems like greater respect for freedom of speech, crazy as it sounds, might actually amplify "the voices of everyday Americans."

A companion story on the same page of the Times suggests that lobbyists will threaten to run ads against legislators to extract favors from them:

The ruling comes at a time when influence-seekers of all kinds have special incentives to open their wallets. Amid the economic crisis, the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats are trying to rewrite the rules for broad swaths of the economy, from Detroit to Wall Street. Republicans, meanwhile, see a chance for major gains in November.

Democrats predicted that Republicans would benefit most from the decision, because they are the traditional allies of big corporations, who have more money to spend than unions.

Yet the Democrats are the ones who control Congress and the White House, and they are the ones "trying to rewrite the rules for broad swaths of the economy." Might they not stand to benefit from business-funded ads supporting their re-election if only they are willing to carve out certain exceptions or offer certain subsidies? More to the point, aren't they the ones who are inviting a horde of lobbyists to descend upon Washington by aggressively expanding the size and scope of government?