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SC Okays Biz, Unions Spending Bid On Polls; Obama Slams Verdict

PTI 22 Jan 2010, 16:57:56 IST

The US Supreme Court on Friday in Washington  gave a green signal to big business and unions to spend as freely as they like to support or oppose Presidential and Congressional candidates, a verdict sharply condemned by President Barack Obama and other lawmakers.  The nine justices of the apex court were divided 5-4 on the ruling that eased decade-old limit on business efforts to influence federal campaigns.

President Obama termed the court decision liberalising campaign financing as a major victory for the large lobbying groups, Wall Street and the health insurance companies and vowed to work immediately with the Congress against it. Lawmakers termed the court's verdict as "shameful" for US democracy.  "With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics," Obama said in a statement.  The decision could drastically alter who gives and gets hundreds of millions of dollars in this November's crucial congressional elections.  Obama said the court's decision is 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.  "This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington--while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates," he said.

"That's why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less," Obama said.  "I don't think anybody thinks we spend too little money on political commercials and on political campaigns. And certainly the solution to those problems is not to allow huge sums of money to come into the system, some of which is hard to account for," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.  "I think everybody should be worried that special- interest groups that have already clouded the legislative process are soon going to get involved in an even more active way, in doing the same thing, in electing men and women to serve in Congress," he said.  Several public activist group said by this judgement, the Supreme Court has put democracy for sale.  "The shocking decision in Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission struck down 60 years of legal precedent prohibiting corporations from making campaign expenditures to attack or support political candidates. The court ruled that the First Amendment - meant to protect the speech of actual human beings - gives for-profit corporations the right to influence elections," said non-profit Public Citizen. PTI