EDGARTOWN, Mass. – President Barack Obama urged Republicans in Congress to stop blocking campaign finance legislation that he said would keep corporations and foreign interests from anonymously trying to influence U.S. elections.

The legislation would require corporations and unions to disclose their spending on political advertising. It also would require corporate and union leaders to appear in ads they financed, saying that they approved the message, as candidates must do.

“The leaders of the other party want to keep the public in the dark,” Obama said in his weekly address on the radio and Internet. “They don’t want you to know which interests are paying for the ads.”

Senate Democrats proposed the bill in response to a Supreme Court ruling in January that overturned a decades-old ban on companies using general-treasury money to run campaign ads supporting or opposing candidates for federal offices. The legislation has passed the House but been blocked by Republicans in the Senate.

“You would think that making these reforms would be a matter of common sense,” Obama said. “But the Republican leaders in Congress said no.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in July that the legislation was an attack on free-speech rights and would silence those who disagreed with the Democrats controlling Congress. He also said the measure was “a transparent effort to rig the fall election for the Democrats,” referring to the midterm elections in November.

Obama urged Americans to challenge politicians who benefit from anonymously funded ads to defend the practice or back steps to change the rules.

“The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide,” Obama said. The voices of regular voters would be “drowned out by millions of dollars in secret, special-interest advertising” without the legislation, he said

“This is an issue that goes to whether or not we will have a democracy that works for ordinary Americans,” he said.

In the Republican address, Hawaii Representative Charles Djou urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to allow a vote on $1.3 trillion in spending cuts identified by Republicans, such as an end to the economic stimulus program and a freeze of federal salaries and hiring.

“Even if the powers-that-be in Washington do not support less government and less spending, they should at least provide those of us who do with a chance to give the American people the common-sense fiscal discipline they are demanding,” he said.

Republicans have stepped up their criticism of federal spending as the budget deficit has risen; it is projected to be $1.34 trillion this fiscal year and the national debt will grow to $10 trillion next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“No price tag has been too high for Washington, and now we’re all paying the price,” Djou said. “Altogether, we now owe more than $43,000 for each man, woman and child in the United States. That is a frightening number.”

Djou also warned that efforts by Democrats to let some of President George W. Bush’s tax cuts expire would result in higher unemployment because most of the burden would fall on small businesses.

“We will not fix the deficit until we cut spending and have real economic growth — and we will not have real economic growth if we keep raising taxes on small businesses,” he said.


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