Petition Urges President Obama to Act Swiftly to Overhaul FEC by Replacing Commissioners


Today, the Campaign Legal Center and a broad coalition of civic organizations launched a petition – following a process set up by the White House – to pressure President Obama to get off the sidelines by appointing new commissioners to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The administration has promised to respond to petitions receiving at least 25,000 signatures.

The presidential primary season is in full swing, with millions of dollars pouring in to fund misleading ads.  The agency charged with holding back the deluge – the Federal Election Commission (FEC) – is a dysfunctional mess.  Three of the six commissioners staunchly refuse to enforce the law, and five of the six are serving despite expired terms.

The petition urges the President to act quickly to nominate replacements for all five commissioners serving expired terms.

To read the petition, click here.

Below is a statement by Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee and a copy of the submission itself.

Statement of Meredith McGehee: 

“This petition is an effort to force President Obama’s hand to act.  The Federal Election Commission as currently composed is simply refusing to enforce the laws on the books.  The Commission has even crafted additional loopholes to water down existing campaign finance laws. 

“While the courts did plenty to create this mess with the ruling in the Citizens United case and another case involving a group called SpeechNow, the FEC bears much responsibility for making a bad situation disastrous.  With Super PACs running amok, the Republican presidential primary is exhibit A of a system out of control, and the FEC is complicit in this auctioning of the White House.

“We recognize that one of the reasons the President has been reluctant to talk much about campaign finance issues – much less do anything about them – is that he will be opening himself up to attacks of hypocrisy.  After all, he is raising money hand-over-first for his reelection, in anticipation of an onslaught of attacks from Super PACs and close associates have formed their own Super PAC to support his re-election.  In 2008 President Obama was the only major party candidate to refuse to participate in any part of the presidential public financing system.

“But he also made support of campaign finance reform a big part of his message in 2008. 

Unfortunately, once in office, it has been all talk and no action, even on the one matter he can move on unilaterally – nominating new FEC Commissioners.

“Having named the head of the new Consumer Protection Agency and new members of the National Labor Relations Board, action on the FEC is long overdue.  Whether you are a Tea Partier who shares Sarah Palin’s concern about crony capitalism, or you are an Occupy sympathizer who grasps that only .5% of Americans are in the game when it comes to making campaign contributions, and or you are moderate who believes government should work efficiently and without special-interest influence, you should care that the FEC is essentially AWOL – an agency that has abdicated its mission.  And the result is damaging our democracy at its most fundamental levels.” 

To sign or read the petition, click here.

The text of the petition follows below.

We petition the Obama administration to:

Nominate New Commissioners to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

We expect candidates for federal office to follow our campaign finance laws, but the FEC – the agency charged with enforcing those laws -- is completely dysfunctional.

Three of the six commissioners staunchly refuse to enforce the law and five of the six are serving despite expired terms.

Prior to your election, you professed support for campaign finance reform. We agree with you that the Citizens United Supreme Court decision was disastrous and the failure of Congress to require disclosure of campaign-related spending was outrageous. 

Nevertheless, you have failed to appoint new commissioners who actually would enforce such laws.

To restore some faith into the democratic process, we urge you to nominate new commissioners to the FEC prior to the 2012 elections.