- Tennessee ammunition site explodes, killing 1
- U.N.: Iran cuts stock closest to nuke-arms grade
- Oklahoma gay-marriage case before U.S. appeals court
- Times wins two awards from Society for Professional Journalists
- Marionville mayor ‘kind of agreed’ with Kansas City shooter’s views
- Rev. Al Sharpton’s Easter message: Politically ‘crucified’ Obama has risen again
- Supreme Court to weigh challenge to ban on campaign lies
- UNICEF launches ‘Mr. Poo’ mascot in India to curb public defecation
- Teen taking selfie by train: ‘Wow, that guy just kicked me in the head’
- Goodbye, Afghanistan — hello, Africa: Air Force to shift as U.S. exits Middle East
Watchdogs to Obama: Fix the FEC
As a multimillion-dollar barrage of negative attack ads hits South Carolina Republican primary voters — bloodying GOP candidates in the process — a coalition of watchdog groups has launched a petition to try to re-energize the agency charged with policing campaigns.
The Federal Election Commission, they argue, is a dysfunctional mess. Five of its six commissioners are serving despite expired terms and three of the six openly disagree with many of the fundamental campaign finance laws they are charged to enforce.
The groups, including the Campaign Legal Center, Democracy 21, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the League of Women Voters for the U.S., are trying to pressure President Obama to take action and appoint new FEC commissioners. The president campaigned on promises to bring more transparency to Washington and reform the campaign-finance system, but is turning a blind eye to the FEC’s inaction, the groups argue.
“Obama has been very eloquent about how corporations and wealthy people shouldn’t be a dominant force in our democracy,” said Lloyd Leonard of the League of Women Voters. “It’s time for him to step up and take the actions that are really, really needed.”
Craig Holman of Public Citizen, one of the groups promoting the petition, said members of the coalition had a very amicable meeting with the White House counsel’s office last week but left without making any real progress.
“We have repeatedly tried to get the administration moving” to no avail, said Democracy 21’s Fred Wertheimer. “We’re trying to go to the public now and get them involved because the stakes are enormous.”
Using an online-petition process set up by the White House on its website, the coalition is trying to get 25,000 signatures by Feb. 10. The administration has promised to provide a response to petitions garnering at least 25,000 signatures. The groups have set up a website, www.fixthefec.org, which directs people to the White House petition.
This year’s presidential race will be the first since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case, which cleared the way for corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds to support individual campaigns. The ruling has given rise to the outside political action committees, known as super PACs, that are funding the flood of negative ads in the Republican primaries.
Proponents of less-restrictive campaign finance laws believe that more freedom to fund ads helps facilitate political debate. But advocates for more limits argue the super PACs can be particularly confusing for voters because the Citizens United case did not require the ads to disclose which group or individuals paid for them, and efforts in Congress to force disclosure failed.
Even though former House Speaker Newt Gingrich professes to support the Citizens United decision, he has complained bitterly about the veracity of a spate of negative ads that super PACs supporting Mitt Romney and others have launched against the Gingrich campaign — even though a super-PAC backing Mr. Gingrich has attempted to fight back in South Carolina.
“[T]ogether we survived, I think, the biggest onslaught in the history of the Iowa primary,” he said in his concession speech after coming in fourth in Iowa.
Despite the surge in political spending, the FEC’s enforcement activities are at a historic low, hobbled by deadlocked votes and inaction.
Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who had championed stricter campaign finance laws in the past, has been more reticent recently.
Still, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee on Thursday decried the rise of super PACs in the 2012 presidential election, calling them “terrible” in an interview with CBS News and predicting “huge scandals” involving the super PAC money this cycle.
“Citizens United — you can put the responsibility right at the doorstep of the Supreme Court — incredible naivete, ignorance of the real world of politics … it was outrageous, it was outrageous,” he said.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- GOP senators want IG probe of Sebelius' 'Obamacare' fundraising
- Teaming up with Christie, Obama says Jersey shore 'back in business'
- No Moore: Obama flubs name of Oklahoma city devastated by tornado, calls it 'Monroe'
- Obama to Okla. tornado victims: 'We have got your back'
- Amid his own challenges, Obama calls on Navy grads to hold themselves accountable
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By John R. Bolton
Reality calls for attaching Gaza to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan
- 'Culture of intimidation' seen in Nevada ranch standoff
- With pot and e-cigarettes, Big Tobacco is just waiting to inhale emerging markets
- FISHER: Shades of Berlin in the South China Sea
- IRS emails reveal discussion with Justice about suing nonprofits for election activities
- Rand and Ron Paul ride to the rescue for Bundy in Nevada standoff with feds
- Removal of military gear limits options for U.S., NATO in Ukraine
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- CNN op-ed claims right-wingers 'more deadly than jihadists'
- Atheists rush to stage Easter display: 'Jesus Christ is a myth'
- BOLTON: A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.