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PETITION TO THE PRESIDENT:
President Obama: In the nearly 6 years since
Citizens United, super PACs and undisclosed money have come to dominate elections.
You have tools at your disposal to fight this influx of secret money into politics.
But you have done nothing.
You must act now or be remembered as the president whose inaction aided the rise of secret money politics.
We demand that before your State of the Union address, you issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their political spending within 24 hours of it happening, taking effect before July 4, 2016.
We also demand that you immediately call on the leaders you appointed to the SEC, IRS, and FCC to use their authority to unmask secret political donors, and fill all 5 FEC openings with nominees who will enforce the law.
TWO MORE CRITICAL STEPS TO MAKE SURE YOUR VOICE IS HEARD
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Six years after the Supreme Court opened the door to skyrocketing levels of secret money in our elections, President Obama has still taken no action to fight back against secret money. Here’s the deal:
Secret Money Spending is Going Through the Roof
The Supreme Court issued its notorious
Citizens United decision, creating a new legal ability for billionaires and wealthy special interests to spend big to swing elections – while hiding their identity.
President Obama’s re-election year saw a record $309 million in secret political spending (and that’s just the portion analysts could measure).
The New York Times declared that “Dark Money Helped Win the Senate,” with even more secret money spent on Congressional elections than in 2012. Most of it benefited Republicans, who took over the Senate for the first time in nearly
Things are on track to get much, much worse. The 2016 elections have already seen 10 times as much secret money spent compared to the same point in 2012’s record-breaking election cycle.
The Rise of Secret Money in Politics
Obama Has Said For Years He Is Concerned About Big Money in Politics
President Obama has long
said the right things about the problem of big money in politics.
“There aren't a lot of functioning democracies around the world that work this way, where you can basically have millionaires and billionaires bankrolling whoever they want however they want – in some cases undisclosed. And what it means is ordinary Americans
are shut out of the process."
— President Obama, Oct. 8, 2013
Obama even famously called out the Supreme Court for its wrong-headed Citizens United decision while 6 justices were sitting in front of him at his 2010 State of the Union. Vice President Biden has also expressed fighting big money as a priority, speaking
perhaps even more strongly against secret money than the president.
“I believe the huge sums of unlimited and often secret money pouring into our politics is a fundamental threat to our Democracy… the middle class will never have a fighting chance in this country as long as just several hundred families, the wealthiest
families, control the process.”
— Vice President Biden, Oct. 21, 2015
But on an issue as important as billionaires and wealthy special interests secretly spending in our elections
we need action, not just words. The next months will show whether President Obama meant what he said and will be a test of Biden’s influence inside the White House.
Obama Has the Power to Tackle This Problem – Without Congress – But He and His Administration Have Not Acted
Legal experts agree that President Obama has the authority to issue an executive order to require large federal contractors to disclose their secret political spending. Far from a small fix, this would cover a large number of companies, including 70%
of the Fortune 100.
After rumors that the president was looking into issuing a similar executive order on political spending disclosure in 2011, he’s said nothing publicly since then – even as more than 130 members of his own party in Congress have called
on him to act, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has the authority to require publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending – important information for investors. This political disclosure rule is the most-requested rule from investors in SEC
history (more than 1.2 million comments) and was supported by 88% of both Democrats and Republicans in a recent poll.
But President Obama’s appointee, soft-on-Wall-Street Mary Jo White, not only hasn’t moved forward with the rule – she took the rule
off the rulemaking agenda after her predecessor had placed it there. Forty-four out of 46 Democratic senators wrote to Chair White in August expressing “frustration and disappointment” with her inaction.
The Federal Communications Commission has the authority to require groups buying political TV ads to reveal the “true identity” of who is funding the ad, not just the misleading name of a front group.
Members of Congress have urged the FCC to require this disclosure. But while President Obama’s appointee to the FCC, Tom Wheeler, took strong action to defend the open internet with Title II net neutrality, he has thus far lacked the
same resolve to fight secret money.
The Internal Revenue Service is required to enforce the rules governing nonprofits. But despite Congress setting down a requirement that 501(c)4 groups be operated “exclusively” for promoting social welfare, President Obama’s appointee to lead the IRS,
John Koskinen, has opened a huge “secret money loophole.”
Cowed by right-wing pressure, Koskinen has allowed secret money groups to stretch this rule and de facto spend up to 49% of their money directly on political activities. He’s recently been indicating something even worse, that the IRS
might officially codify this 49% loophole for secret money.
The Federal Election Commission is supposed to be the “cop on the beat” making sure election laws are enforced. But Republican appointees who oppose the law have ground enforcement to a halt with a persistent willingness to gridlock the commission 3-3.
President Obama could break this gridlock, as 5 out of 6 commissioners are on expired terms. The President can and should nominate 5 new commissioners who are willing to enforce the law.
Six Years After Citizens United, President Obama Has Done Nothing
Despite his stated concern about the tide of secret money corroding our elections, the facts paint a clear – and different – picture. President Obama has tools at his disposal to fight secret money in politics but has failed to use them for nearly 6 years
It’s past time for President Obama to take action. If he doesn’t, he’ll leave a legacy of a President who stood idly by while secret money degraded our democracy.
Join us and tell President Obama to act right away and do everything he can to fight secret money.