Read all posts from June 2010

  • Ed. Note: To receive email updates like this one and get the latest White House news and events, sign up for email updates.

    Today President Obama delivered this father's day message:

    Good afternoon,

    As the father of two young daughters, I know that being a father is one of the most important jobs any man can have.

    My own father left my family when I was two years old. I was raised by a heroic mother and wonderful grandparents who provided the support, discipline and love that helped me get to where I am today, but I still felt the weight of that absence throughout my childhood. It's something that leaves a hole no government can fill. Studies show that children who grow up without their fathers around are more likely to drop out of high school, go to jail, or become teen fathers themselves.

    And while no government program can fill the role that fathers play for our children, what we can do is try to support fathers who are willing to step up and fulfill their responsibilities as parents, partners and providers. That's why last year I started a nationwide dialogue on fatherhood to tackle the challenge of father absence head on.

    In Chicago, the Department of Health and Human Services held a forum with community leaders, fatherhood experts and everyday dads to discuss the importance of responsible fatherhood support programs. In New Hampshire, Secretary of Education Duncan explored the linkages between father absence and educational attainment in children. In Atlanta, Attorney General Holder spoke with fathers in the criminal justice system about ways local reentry organizations, domestic violence groups and fatherhood programs can join together to support ex-offenders and incarcerated individuals who want to be closer to their families and children.

    Now we're taking this to the next level. Tomorrow, I'll make an announcement about the next phase of our efforts to help fathers fulfill their responsibilities as parents -- The President's Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative. You can learn more at www.fatherhood.gov.

    This Father's Day -- I'm thankful for the opportunity to be a dad to two wonderful daughters. And I'm thankful for all the wonderful fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and friends who are doing their best to make a difference in the lives of a child.

    Happy Father's Day.

    Sincerely,

    President Barack Obama

  • The President calls on Republicans in Congress to put scoring political points aside, and instead to focus on solving the problems facing the nation.  At the time of this address, the Republican leadership is blocking progress on a bill to boost the economy, retain jobs for teachers and cops, and help people buy their first home; another bill which would hold oil companies accountable for any disasters they cause by removing the current $75 million liability cap; and 136 highly qualified men and women who have been nominated to government positions.

  • Ed. Note: Make sure to check out our new Summer of Recovery map of the country that shows the jobs that have been saved or created in every state across the country, and which we will be updating with local stories throughout the summer.  Citizens can even let us know if they see stories in their local news we should add.  Scroll around and dig in.

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (123MB) | mp3 (12MB)

    Welcome, everyone, to the Summer of Recovery!

    And what better way to kick off a season of renewed American infrastructure and good-paying American jobs than to have the honor of joining President Obama in Columbus, Ohio. Together, we celebrated the groundbreaking of the 10,000th roadway project underway thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

    Now, 10,000 road projects underway from a single stimulus--that's an accomplishment right there. But how about the fact that DOT helped get all of those projects underway in just the 16 months since President Obama signed the Recovery Act into law?

    And, let's remember that every single one of those projects creates many, many job opportunities--with some single projects employing thousands. In fact, in the first quarter alone, Recovery Act funded highway projects created 17,000 jobs.

    President Obama Speaks in Columbus, Ohio

    President Barack Obama, with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, delivers remarks following his tour of the Parsons and Livingston Avenue construction site in Columbus, Ohio, June 18, 2010. The President is in Columbus to tour the site of the 10,000th Recovery Act road project to get underway. The road improvement project is expected to create over 300 construction jobs and will contribute to the broader economic development effort underway in the area around the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Today I’m with Senator Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire to congratulate the state on meeting a major milestone under the Recovery Act. New Hampshire and eleven other states have now weatherized more than 30 percent of the homes they planned to complete under the Recovery Act.  Increasing the energy efficiency of homes is especially important for New Hampshire, where more than half of homes use oil for heating. 

  • We are proud to announce today the next step in the President’s efforts to reduce the influence of special interests on the federal government. Today, the President signed a memorandum directing agencies in the Executive Branch not to appoint or re-appoint currently-registered federal lobbyists to advisory boards or commissions. This directive formalizes an aspiration we first announced last September and that agencies have implemented successfully on a trial basis ever since.

    For too long, lobbyists have wielded disproportionate influence in Washington.  It’s one thing for lobbyists to represent their clients’ interests in petitions to the government, but it’s quite another, and not appropriate, for lobbyists to hold privileged positions could enable them to advocate for their clients from within the government.   It was for this reason that the President took steps on his first day in office to close the revolving door through which lobbyists rotated between private industry and full-time executive branch positions.  Today’s step goes further by barring lobbyist appointments to part-time agency advisory positions.

    These part-time agency advisory boards and commissions – of which there are thousands throughout the executive branch – help the government shape policy on everything from international trade to scientific innovation.  And while some specialists who’ve held roles on these boards for years have made positive contributions, phasing out those who simultaneously serve as lobbyists will have the added benefit of opening these boards up to fresh faces and engaging more Americans in our governing process.      

    In order to avoid disrupting the ongoing work of these boards, the memorandum will not require removal of currently-serving lobbyists in the middle of their terms.  But, it will prohibit their reappointment when their term expires if they continue to serve as registered federal lobbyists.  And it prohibits the appointment of any new lobbyists from this date forward.

    The memorandum now directs the Office of Management and Budget to issue implementing guidance within 90 days.  In order to engage Americans fully in reforming our government and fighting the special interests, draft guidance will be made available for public comment.

    We will continue to fight the special interests until the playing field in Washington is leveled for the American people. 

  • On Tuesday evening immediately following the President’s address in the Oval Office, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took questions submitted and voted on by the public during the course of the day.  Over 7,200 questions were submitted, and we didn’t have a chance to get to all of them during the live chat.  Below are answers to some of the most popular questions in each category that we didn’t have a chance to answer on Tuesday. 

  • World Cup fever has touched the White House just as much as your house. Last weekend, Vice President Biden led the U.S. delegation to South Africa and took in the opening match between South Africa and Mexico as well as the U.S. team's first match with England. In this new video, recorded on site in Pretoria, the Vice President talks about the games, the growth of soccer in America, and his meeting with FIFA president Joseph Blatter.

    Download Video: mp4 (35MB)

     

  • Primary care providers are the backbone of our health care system – which means that the stronger our health care workforce, the more likely patients can get the care they need when they need it. For too long, communities across the country have suffered from a shortage of primary care providers.  Without action, experts project a continued shortfall due to an aging population and fewer medical students choosing to go into primary care. But that is all about to change.

    Thanks to new investments in our healthcare workforce in the Affordable Care Act, cities and towns across the country will see an increase in the number of health care providers.  A greater number of physicians and nurses creates an opportunity for increased access to care that can help Americans prevent disease and illness, making for healthier families and communities. The new investments will go towards training new doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. Between the Recovery Act and the Affordable Care Act, in the next five years, we’ll begin to see the training and development of more than 16,000 new primary care providers.

    We have a unique opportunity to further strengthen our primary care workforce for the future. Among other things, the investments announced will:

    Strengthen new nurse-managed clinics to assist in the training of nurse practitioners. This will help provide comprehensive primary care to populations living in underserved communities.

    Make health care education more accessible so more physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants will be encouraged to practice primary care.

    Support the development of more than 600 new physician assistants, who practice medicine as members of a team with their supervising physician, and can be trained in a shorter period of time compared to physicians

    Train an additional 600 nurse practitioners, including providing incentives for part-time students to become full-time and complete their education sooner.

    To learn more about expanding our health care workforce, you can watch our latest webchat where HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and I took your questions. Watch the webchat here.

    And to read more about this, check out the fact sheet.

    Dr. Mary Wakefield is Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration

  • Thanks for checking out the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Join President Obama this week as he hosts an event for small business owners in the Oval Office, makes his fourth trip to the Gulf Coast, meets with governors, residents and workers to discuss the spill, speaks at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, gives his first Oval Office address, meets with BP Executives, speaks at the American Nurses Association and much more.

    Download Video: mp4 (247.5MB)

    Find more video, photos, and information on the events featured in this episode below:

    Friday, June 11, 2010

           Monday, June 14, 2010

         Tuesday, June 15, 2010

         Wednesday, June 16, 2010

         Thursday, June 17, 2010

     

    Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer 

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    The future of our economy will be built on green foundations.  The evidence of this is clear in the projects funded by the Recovery Act, and the General Services Administration has committed itself to working towards a federal government with a zero environmental footprint. 

    Today, I walked the roof of the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Regional Office and Information Center to view the solar panels that local contractors have recently installed as a result of funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  I met roofers, electricians, and solar panel manufacturers who were eager to tell me about the boost this project has brought to their businesses. The skills they’ve honed here will give such workers the competitive edge and innovative posture to attract and develop new products, services and markets. 

    I also learned about the placement of the panels with respect to the sun, the special finish to the roof allowing for proper reflection, and the weights placed around each panel to secure them without puncturing the roof.  The ingenuity and pride of American business were on display, and we at the GSA were delighted to take a moment to applaud. 

  • First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks to Marines

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks to Marines and their families at Camp Pendleton in California. June 13, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    “It’s become one of my defining missions as First Lady, and that’s to help the rest of our country better understand and appreciate the incredible service of you and your families, and to make sure that your voices are heard back in Washington and that your needs are met, and to make sure that we realize our vision of an America that truly supports and engages our military families. That’s why I'm here,” said Mrs. Obama to a crowd of 3,500 Marines, sailors and their family members at Camp Pendleton, California.

  • Some recent press coverage has provided a misleading picture about a successful Recovery Act program, Build America Bonds (BABs).  BABs have proven to be an effective financing tool that have enabled municipalities fund critical infrastructure projects at a time when they were facing severe financing challenges. 

    A New York Times piece this week, for example, argued that, “Wall Street banks are charging larger commissions for selling Build America Bonds than they do for normal municipal bonds.”  While this was true when the program first started, BABs underwriting fees have declined over time and in the past few months have fallen in line with those for tax-exempt bonds (see chart below).  There are economic reasons why BABs underwriting fees may have started out high and then come down: underwriters took on risk with a new product and had to bear start-up costs and devote resources to educate investors for their initial offerings.  Regardless of the reasons, competition appears to have lowered fees substantially. 

  • With tens of thousands of projects funded and millions of Americans on the job today, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been 16 months since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  And with so many jobs saved and created already, you might think that the Recovery Act’s greatest impact is behind us.

    But it’s not.

    As the summer heats up, it is becoming clear that it could quite possibly be the most active season yet when it comes to recovering our economy.  There are Recovery Act-funded projects breaking ground across the country that are creating quality jobs for Americans and economic growth for businesses, large and small.

    This summer is sure to be a Summer of Economic Recovery.

  • As a former Governor and Insurance Commissioner, I believe that as part of our efforts to implement the Affordable Care Act, it is critical to reach out and take advantage of expertise outside government to ensure the new law is implemented as quickly and effectively as possible. We know that people had a variety of opinions during the debates on the legislation.  But now the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and we all have a stake in implementing it.

    I’ve been holding a series of outreach meetings, to get input and advice.  Today, I hosted a bipartisan group of leaders, who all have experience implementing or writing major pieces of health care legislation.  This impressive group, which included former HHS Secretaries, a former CMS official, and a former Senate leader, shared the lessons they have learned and gave me some good suggestions.  I plan to check in with them and other leaders throughout the coming months.

    Attending today’s meeting were:

    Former HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan, who served under President George H.W. Bush, served as former President of Morehouse, and is a recognized leader on women's health who launched the Healthy People 2000 Initiative at the Department;

    • Former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, the Department's longest-serving HHS Secretary, who currently serves as President of the University of Miami and who helped create and implement the Children's Health Insurance Program;
    • Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who crafted and passed the Medicare Modernization Act;
    • Chris Jennings, who served from 1993 to 2001 as President Clinton's Senior Health Care Advisor at the Domestic Policy and National Economic Councils, where he was charged with developing and implementing the Administration’s health care policy;
    • Nancy-Ann DeParle, current Director of the White House Office on Health Reform and one of the President' s point people on health reform implementation, who also headed CMS and shepherded the agency through the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.

    Today’s meeting builds on our Department’s efforts to gather the best ideas and suggestions on how to implement the Affordable Care Act.  Over the past month, Administration and HHS officials held four briefings with Congressional staff on both sides of the aisle to answer questions and hear about how to better meet the needs of their constituents.  We also hold weekly calls with the staff of Governors, Insurance Commissioners, and other state officials to provide updates on implementation and answer questions. 

    In May, I met with insurance executives to ask for their help in ensuring that the new consumer rights and benefits, as well as affordable coverage choices, are delivered as quickly as possible, and called on them to help keep premiums down.

    In a few weeks, I will speak to the National Governors Association and will reach out to a bi-partisan group of Governors to hear their thoughts and ideas on the new law and build on our efforts to work together to help more Americans get affordable, quality health insurance.  And in the months ahead, I will continue to reach out across the country as we turn this new law into a reality for American families. 

    I also appreciate the chance to answer questions directly from the American people in our webchats.  Today, we talked about how the Affordable Care Act strengthens the doctor-patient relationship, and invests in the training and development of a new generation of health care professionals. We will continue holding these discussions on a regular basis to remain engaged with the American people as implementation moves forward.  These webchats are one of many resources to help Americans understand how to take advantage of the new law to gain greater control over their health care and get access to quality, affordable care.  We encourage you to regularly check www.HealthReform.gov for the latest information.
     

    Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of Health and Human Services

  • Yesterday the President, Vice President, and others met with BP executives to ensure that families and businesses in the Gulf Region are not shortchanged for their losses due to the devastating oil spill off their coast.  A key agreement from the meeting was on the establishment of an independently-run account holding about $20 billion that would handle claims by residents, providing "substantial assurance that the claims people and businesses have will be honored" as the President put it.  Unfortunately, some in Congress have attacked this common sense step, including Congressman Joe Barton who called the agreement "shameful" and a "tragedy," and apologized to BP for it during a Congressional hearing today.  White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded:

    What is shameful is that Joe Barton seems to have more concern for big corporations that caused this disaster than the fishermen, small business owners and communities whose lives have been devastated by the destruction.  Congressman Barton may think that a fund to compensate these Americans is a ‘tragedy’, but most Americans know that the real tragedy is what the men and women of the Gulf Coast are going through right now.  Members from both parties should repudiate his comments.

    Indeed, the new account and the new process will be of tremendous benefit to the people of the Gulf Coast, who certainly are the focus of concern at the White House -- the fact sheet below issued yesterday lays out the specifics:

    FACT SHEET: Claims and Escrow 

    INDEPENDENT CLAIMS FACILITY
    A new, independent claims process will be created with the mandate to be fairer, faster, and more transparent in paying damage claims by individuals and businesses.

    • To assure independence, Kenneth Feinberg, who previously administered the September 11th  Victim Compensation Fund, will serve as the independent claims administrator.
    • The facility will develop standards for recoverable claims that will be published.
    • A panel of three judges will be available to hear appeals of the administrator’s decisions.
    • The facility is designed for claims of individuals and businesses who have been harmed by the oil spill; local, state, tribal, and federal government claims will continue to be handled directly by BP.
    • The facility will decide all claims as expeditiously as possible, and in any event within the existing statutory timeframe.
    • Dissatisfied claimants maintain all current rights under law, including the right to go to court or to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
    • Decisions under current law by the independent claims facility shall be binding on BP. 
    • All claims adjudicated under this facility have access to the escrow account for payment.

    ESCROW ACCOUNT
    BP has agreed to contribute $20 billion over a four-year period at a rate of $5 billion per year, including $5 billion within 2010.  BP will provide assurance for these commitments by setting aside $20 billion in U.S. assets.

    • BP has reaffirmed its commitment to pay all removal costs and damages that it owes as a responsible party.  It will not assert any liability cap under OPA to avoid liability.
    • The creation of the escrow account will provide assurance to the public that funds will be available to compensate the injured. 
    • This account is neither a floor nor a ceiling on liability.
    • The escrow account is to be used to pay claims adjudicated by the independent claims facility, as well as judgments and settlements, natural resource damage costs, and state and local response costs.

    VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTION FOR RIG WORKERS

    • BP will contribute to a foundation $100 million to support unemployed oil rig workers.
    • The Administration’s May legislative proposal would create a new program of unemployment assistance, modeled after the Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program, to provide benefits to workers who lose their jobs as a result of a spill of national significance.

    ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH MONITORING

    • BP has previously committed $500 million for the ten-year Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to improve understanding of the impacts of and ways to mitigate oil and gas pollution.
    • As a part of this initiative, BP will work with governors, and state and local environmental and health authorities to design the long-term monitoring program to assure the environmental and public health of the Gulf Region.

    UPDATE: Vice President Biden was also asked about Representative Barton's comments today, and answered with both humor and passion:

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  • As the American economy moves from recession to recovery, our administration must continue to do all we can to create the conditions for robust job growth.  What’s more, we need to be mindful not only of the quantity of new jobs, but of their quality as well.

    That’s why we’ve proposed to address a growing problem in our labor market: the misclassification of employees as independent contractors (ICs).   Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris testified to Congress on this issue today, and the opening of his testimony is worth repeating here:

    "Misclassification" seems to suggest a technical violation or a paperwork error.  But “worker misclassification” actually describes workers being illegally deprived of labor and employment law protections, as well as public benefits programs like unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation because such programs generally apply only to “employees” rather than workers in general…Misclassification is no mere technical violation.  It is a serious threat to workers and the fair application of the laws Congress has enacted to assure workers have good, safe jobs.

    While unintentional misclassification occurs, that’s not the real problem.  Some workers really are independent contractors, and sometimes employers mistakenly classify some of their employees as ICs.  But some less scrupulous employers have been intentionally and systematically misclassifying their workers, and it’s these cases that need to be met with new rules to address what experts say is an increasing problem.  And those new rules are precisely what we at the Middle Class Task Force have proposed.

    You may be wondering why an employer would misclassify their workers.  The answer is simple: they can pay them considerably less, since ICs are not subject to minimum wage or overtime rules.  And since employers don’t have to pay the requisite employment taxes on ICs, like payroll or unemployment insurance taxes, they end up shortchanging government coffers as well.

    A moment’s thought also shows how misclassification creates and uneven playing field: employers who systematically misclassify their workers have a significant competitive advantage over the vast majority of employers who are playing by the rules.  And if the folks breaking the rules can do the job more cheaply than the folks following the rules, it’s going to be tougher and tougher for the good guys to hang on.

    President Obama’s FY2011 Budget features a plan to address the problem.  First, we need to get rid of some of the old policies that incentivize misclassification, then we need to make it easier for both the Labor and Treasury Departments to find misclassifiers, get them to accurately classify their workers in the future, and penalize them if they fail to do so.  Finally, we must restore workplace protections to workers who have been wrongly classified.

    And there’s another good reason to pursue these changes today: in these times of high deficits, we need the revenue.  Remember, when employers misclassify employees as ICs, they don’t pay the taxes they owe.  Implementing the changes we’ve proposed will bring in $7 billion over ten years.

    So keep an eye on this issue as we work with Congress to not only create more jobs, but to create better ones.

    Jared Bernstein is Chief Economic Advisor to the Vice President

  • The class of 2010 at Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan, was in for quite a surprise on their graduation day when President Obama dropped by unexpectedly at their graduation rehearsal. 

    Kalamazoo Central was the winner of the 2010 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge – a contest that challenged high schools to tell the President how they are making significant strides on personal responsibility, academic excellence and college readiness, and how they are working toward the President’s national goal of having the most college graduates by 2020. While the students were expecting to see the President at graduation later that evening – their prize for winning the Commencement Challenge – they were absolutely shocked to see him at the rehearsal.

    The Get Schooled Foundation and MTV were on the ground with the Kalamazoo seniors and captured this incredible moment on video.

    Get Schooled and MTV have followed the students at Kalamazoo and the five other finalist schools throughout the competition.  Check out their video compilation of the challenge.

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (69MB) | mp3 (7MB)

    Earlier today President Obama met with BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg and other BP in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.  They discussed the ongoing efforts to stop the oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico and BP’s responsibility not only to pay for the cost of the cleanup of the oil spill, but also to compensate residents and businesses that have suffered financially as a result of the oil spill. 

    In his remarks after the meeting, the President announced that BP has agreed to set aside $20 billion to pay economic damage claims to people and businesses that have been affected by the oil spill:

    This $20 billion will provide substantial assurance that the claims people and businesses have will be honored.  It’s also important to emphasize this is not a cap.  The people of the Gulf have my commitment that BP will meet its obligations to them.  BP has publicly pledged to make good on the claims that it owes to the people in the Gulf, and so the agreement we reached sets up a financial and legal framework to do it. 

    Another important element is that this $20 billion fund will not be controlled by either BP or by the government.  It will be put in a escrow account, administered by an impartial, independent third party.  So if you or your business has suffered an economic loss as a result of this spill, you’ll be eligible to file a claim for part of this $20 billion.  This fund does not supersede either individuals’ rights or states’ rights to present claims in court.  BP will also continue to be liable for the environmental disaster it has caused, and we’re going to continue to work to make sure that they address it.

    BP and the Administration agreed to appoint Ken Feinberg, who administered the claims process for victims of 9/11, to run the independent claims process. 

    Calling this agreement "an important step towards making the people of the Gulf Coast whole again," the President reiterated the importance of keeping the families and businesses of the Gulf Coast, many of whom are still recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, at the forefront of the oil spill recovery process.

    During a private conversation with Chairman Svanberg I emphasized to him that for the families that I met with down in the Gulf, for the small business owners, for the fishermen, for the shrimpers, this is not just a matter of dollars and cents; that a lot of these folks don’t have a cushion.  They were coming off Rita and Katrina; coming off the worst economy that this country has seen since the Great Depression, and this season was going to be the season where they were going to be bouncing back.  Not only that, but this happened, from their perspective, at the worst possible time, because they’re making their entire income for the year in the three or four months during which folks can take their boats out, people are coming down for tourism. 

    And so I emphasized to the chairman that when he’s talking to shareholders, when he is in meetings in his boardroom, to keep in mind those individuals; that they are desperate; that some of them, if they don’t get relief quickly, may lose businesses that have been in their families for two or three generations.  And the chairman assured me that he would keep them in mind.

    That’s going to be the standard by which I measure BP’s responsiveness.  I think today was a good start, and it should provide some assurance to some of the small business owners and individuals down in the Gulf who I was visiting with that BP is going to meet its responsibilities.  But I indicated to the chairman that, throughout this process, as we work to make sure that the Gulf is made whole once again, that the standard I’m going to be applying is whether or not those individuals I met with, their family members, those communities that are vulnerable, whether they are uppermost in the minds of all concerned.  That’s who we’re doing this work for.

    Learn more about the claims process and escrow account here.  

    President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with BP executives in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 16, 2010, to discuss the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Pictured, from left, are BP CEO Tony Hayward, BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP General Counsel Rupert Bondy, BP Managing Director Robert Dudley, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    [View Full Size]

  • In the Citizens United decision this January, the Supreme Court overturned decades of law that had barred corporations from using their financial clout to directly interfere with U.S. elections.  The decision was a major victory for special interests in Washington because it opened the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest expenditures to drown out the voices of ordinary Americans.  The President has consistently criticized this decision, and has asked Congress to take swift action on the DISCLOSE Act, the strong, bipartisan legislation that would establish the toughest-ever requirements for election-related spending by big oil corporations, Wall Street and other special interests.

    Just yesterday, the DISCLOSE Act received a strong endorsement from five groups who champion transparency and accountability in government:  the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, and Public Citizen. They support this bill because they know that it’s an important step toward restoring our government to its rightful owners: the American people.   The DISCLOSE Act will prevent corporations and special interests from hiding behind phony names like “Citizens for a Better Future” by ensuring that the American people can see who is actually trying to buy influence in our elections.  As the President has said, in this country every organization has a right to make its voice heard -- but the problem comes when “Citizens for a Better Future” is actually funded entirely by “Corporations for Weaker Oversight.”  The American people deserve to know exactly who is spending that money trying to influence their vote.  The bill will also combat spending by foreign-owned interests in our elections, fight pay-for-play practices by government contractors and otherwise enact strong measures to protect the public interest. 

    Inaction on the DISCLOSE Act is simply not an option.  This bill will ensure that corporations who participate in American elections are held accountable to the American people.  President Obama is wholly committed to accountability and transparency in government; he has taken unprecedented steps to curb the influence of lobbyists by closing the revolving door and imposing tough lobbyist disclosure rules on Recovery Act funding.  He has made the White House visitor records public so that everyone can see who comes to the White House to do business.  He has imposed tougher ethics standards on this Administration than any in history.  The DISCLOSE Act is another crucial step toward ensuring that the American government works for the American people, and it is critical that Congress pass this legislation.

    Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director

  • Immediately following President Obama’s address in the Oval Office, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took questions from the American people about the BP Oil Spill. Questions were submitted throughout the day on YouTube.com/WhiteHouse in one of four categories, and Robert Gibbs answered some of the most popular questions from each category.

    Download Video: mp4 (730MB) | mp3 (24MB)
     

    There were thousands of questions submitted yesterday via YouTube.com/WhiteHouse, and unfortunately we couldn’t get to them all during the chat.  We’ll be answering more of your questions throughout the week right here on the White House blog so be sure to check back. 
     

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