“With all due deference to the separation of powers,” the president said, “last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections. [Applause.] I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. [Applause.]”
Justice Samuel Alito, by mouthing the words “not true” as Obama read these sentences off of the TelePrompTer, delivered, with all due deference, one of the most memorable and public rebuttals of our time. The Citizens Uniteddecision to which Obama referred did not actually reverse “a century of law.” The idea that the court had opened a door through which “foreign corporations” and “foreign entities” could influence U.S. elections was false. What evidence exists of illegal foreign contributions to political campaigns actually points in the direction of none other than President Obama. Would Obama recant?
Obama would not. His ritual denunciations of the court and Citizens Unitedand the secretive “powerful interests” continued. The leaders of that “other party,” he said in an August 2010 weekly address, “want to keep the public in the dark. They don’t want you to know which interests are paying for the ads. The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide. Well, we cannot allow the corporate takeover of our democracy.”
That takeover would come in the form of “front groups,” he said on the campaign trail that October, “running misleading negative ads all across America. Tens of billions of dollars are pouring in. And they don’t have the courage to stand up and disclose their identities.” The solar-powered high-speed train of progress might come to a sudden and violent halt. “It’s a threat to our democracy.”