[JURIST] US President Barack Obama sharply criticized the Supreme Court's recent decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission [JURIST report], which eased restrictions on political campaign spending by corporations and labor unions, in his State of the Union Address [transcript] Wednesday night. Obama warned of the increased potential for powerful interest groups, both foreign and domestic, to wield excessive influence over American elections and called for bipartisan support of legislation to counteract the decision. In addition to his support for campaign finance reform, the president also reiterated his previous commitment to repeal the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that prohibits gay Americans from serving in the military, despite the advice of Pentagon lawyers [JURIST reports] to postpone reviewing the matter. Health care and clean energy initiatives were also addressed. Obama acknowledged the difficulties facing comprehensive health care reform [JURIST news archive], but encouraged lawmakers to continue working toward a functional and acceptable solution. Stressing the importance of clean energy [JURIST news archive], the president pushed for legislation to support investment in such technologies to promote both job creation and climate change.
In its ruling last week, the Supreme Court cited First Amendment concerns in overturning Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) [text, PDF], which prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech defined as an "electioneering communication" or for speech expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate. The Court, in a 5-4 decision [opinion, PDF], said that, "[t]he Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether." The White House immediately responded [press release] by pledging to work with Congress "to develop a forceful response."