President Obama’s decision to change his mind and embrace so-called “super PACs” has campaign finance watchdog groups expressing rising disappointment about the administration’s failure to follow through on promises to fix the nation’s campaign finance laws.
In 2008 when he reversed his commitment to using the public financing system, created in the aftermath of Watergate, Mr. Obama pledged to fix campaign funding laws if elected. But in the last three years, critics say the president has done nothing to seriously tackle the issue or any other related to campaign finance.
“Obama is not that much different than 20 to 30 years of politicians,” said Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center. “His rhetoric on fixing the system was a lot hotter and he made that part of his public persona … but he has taken no significant action in the money and politics part of his reform agenda.”
To the chagrin of a number of watchdog groups, the president also has done nothing to re-energize the troubled Federal Election Commission, the agency charged with policing campaigns. Five of its six commissioners are serving despite expired terms and three of the six openly disagree with many of the fundamental campaign finance law they are charged to enforce.
On Friday a number of good-government groups, including Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the Campaign Legal Center, Democracy 21 and the League of Women Voters for the U.S., are planning to send the White House a petition signed by 25,000 citizens calling on the president to overhaul the FEC.
“While previously unimaginable torrents of money pour into the campaign cycle, the FEC — the agency charged with regulating all this spending — sits by idly,” said CREW’s Melanie Sloan. “Rather than just complaining about the state of campaign finance law, President Obama could do something: appoint new commissioners actually committed to enforcing the law.”