Obama Says that as President, He'll Continue Life-Long Commitment to Ethics Reform
Speaking at Roosevelt Middle School, U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today invoked the legacy of the reformer President and said that he will stand up to the lobbyists and special interest groups that have prevented much-needed progress in Washington. Obama touted what he called the most far-reaching ethics and lobbying reform plan of any candidate in this race, and said that his refusal to take money from Federal lobbyists or political action committees along with his record of pushing for tough reforms in Washington and the Illinois state senate shows his commitment to achieving results.
"If we are serious about having real change in this country, then we have to start putting America's interests ahead of the special interests that are blocking our efforts to create universal health care, an energy policy that focuses on renewable fuels, and rural investment," Obama said. "We have to break the stranglehold that the lobbyists and special interests have on our democracy. That's why I don't take money from Federal lobbyists or PACs, and that's why I have offered the most far-reaching ethics and lobbying reform plan of any candidate in this race. It's a set of proposals that I will begin enacting on my very first day as President - a plan to make the White House the people's house and send the Washington lobbyists back to K Street."
Obama said that no one working in an Obama Administration will be allowed to lobby the White House after they leave. He also pledged to end no-bid contracts, and to make government more open and transparent. Obama said that he will be able to accomplish these reforms because he has a proven record of success.
"When I arrived in Springfield a decade ago as a state Senator, people said it was too hard to take on the issue of money in politics, but I found folks on both sides of the aisle who were willing to listen, and we were finally able to pass the first major ethics reform in twenty-five years," Obama said. "When I arrived in Washington eight years later, my party made me the point person on ethics, and I was determined to pass the strongest reform possible. This isn't just the rhetoric of a campaign for me, this has been the cause of my life."
Background on Obama's ground-breaking reform efforts that weren't always popular with politicians
Ethics reforms championed by Obama 'revolutionized' the Illinois system: "The disclosure requirement 'revolutionized Illinois's system,' said Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. By giving journalists immediate access to a database of expenditures and contributions, it transformed political reporting. It also, she said, 'put Senator Obama on a launching pad and put the mantle of ethics legislator on his crown.'" [New York Times, 7/30/2007]
Obama faced tremendous resistance in his reform efforts; the Senate leader said he caught 'pure hell': "'He caught pure hell,' Mr. Jones said of Mr. Obama. 'I actually felt sorry for him at times.' â¦ The job required negotiating across party lines to come up with reform proposals, then presenting them to the Democratic caucus. Senator Kirk Dillard, the Republican Senate president's appointee, said, 'Barack was literally hooted and catcalled in his caucus.' On the Senate floor, Mr. Dillard said, 'They would bark their displeasure at me, and then they'd unload on Obama.' [New York Times, 7/30/2007]
Obama fought for ethics reforms in the U.S. Senate that weren't always popular: "The Senate adopted a measure that, for the first time, would require registered lobbyists to disclose not only the limited money they can donate to candidates personally but also the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars they raise from clients and friends and deliver as sheaves of checks -- a tradition known as bundling...the disclosure idea's lead sponsor, Senator Barack Obama... 'has not been the most popular person in our caucus in the last couple of weeks,' said a Democratic aide involved in deliberations over the bill." [New York Times, January 20, 2007]