A petition on the White House’s “We the People” website calling for President Barack Obama to nominate new commissioners to the Federal Elections Commission has gained enough signatures to require an official response.
The petition was created and promoted by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and other groups.
“The people have spoken, and now we’ll see if the White House is listening,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “The FEC is a dysfunctional mess, and the president will have to answer for the problem. It is time for President Obama to appoint new commissioners who will faithfully enforce our nation’s campaign finance laws.”
The White House has promised to issue a response for petitions that are signed by at least 25,000 people within 30 days. On Thursday, the petition reached that goal.
“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,” the petition stated. “Three of the six commissioners staunchly refuse to enforce the law and five of the six are serving despite expired terms.”
Republican commissioners who don’t want to enforce campaign finance law have rendered the agency useless, according to the advocacy group Public Citizen. From 2003 to 2007, there were a total of 39 split votes on enforcement actions. But from 2008 to 2010, the number of split votes jumped up to 70, even though the total number of votes was drastically less. The deadlocked votes led to dismissed complaints.
Historically, the agency deadlocked on fewer than 2 percent of its enforcement actions.
The FEC is also pursuing far fewer audits of the financial activity of candidates and committees than it had done so previously. The number of audits dropped from 242 between 2004 to 2007 to just 84 between 2008 to 2010.
“The success of a petition highlighting the problems of an obscure public agency shows just how important fair elections are to the American people,” Sloan said. “President Obama has ignored the FEC’s failings long enough. While an effective FEC should be a no-brainer for someone who has advocated for campaign finance reform, the president has also now embraced his own super PAC. His response to this petition will help clarify which side he is on.”