February 28, 2012 - Legal Center, Reformers and More Than 25,000 Americans Call on President Obama to Replace Lame Duck FEC Commissioners
More than 25,000 Americans have now joined the Legal Center and other reform groups in calling on President Barack Obama to nominate new Commissioners to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) through the White House petition process. In a letter sent to the White House Today, the Campaign Legal Center and 11 other groups called on the President act on the petition and meet his own 2008 campaign commitment to appoint FEC Commissioners committed to enforcing U.S. election laws.
The letter emphasizes that five of the six Commissioners are continuing to serve even though their terms have expired. The FEC is widely recognized as the most dysfunctional agency in the federal government, largely because three of the current Commissioners refuse to enforce the campaign finance laws because of their ideological opposition to the laws. The FEC has long been an example of a “captive agency” – more responsive to those whom it is supposed to oversee – but the last few years have gotten even worse.
The letter notes that more than 25,000 individuals have now signed the “We the People” petition filed with WhiteHouse.gov and, according to the rules of the website, the President is supposed to respond to the petition. While running for office, President Obama expressed his support for a stronger, more functional FEC and promised to put forward proposed Commissioners who would uphold the law. To date, he has not done so.
The full text of the letter follows below.
February 28, 2012
Dear Mr. President:
We write to follow up on our WhiteHouse.gov “We the People” petition, signed by over 25,000 individuals from around the country, calling on you to nominate new commissioners to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) prior to the 2012 elections who will faithfully enforce existing campaign finance laws and close existing loopholes.
The FEC is widely recognized as a dysfunctional agency that consistently refuses to enforce federal campaign finance laws enacted to prevent the corruption of federal officeholders and government decisions. Five of the six current commissioners are serving despite expired terms, and three openly flaunt their routine refusal to enforce existing campaign finance laws, even where the FEC’s professional staff has called for an investigation. This is an unacceptable situation.
During the 2008 presidential campaign you recognized the problems at the FEC and unequivocally called for new commissioners. In response to questions raised in September 2007, by the Midwest Democracy Alliance, you responded:
I believe that the FEC needs to be strengthened and that individuals named to
the Commission should have a demonstrated record of fair administration of the law and an ability to overcome partisan biases. My initial goal as president will be to determine whether we can make the FEC more effective through appointments. What the FEC needs most is strong, impartial leadership that will promote integrity in our election system.
You also promised to appoint commissioners committed to enforcing our nation’s election laws. With the exception of one unsuccessful attempt in 2009, however, you have failed to nominate anyone to replace any of the five lame duck commissioners.
You have the opportunity and responsibility to address the dysfunction at the FEC; the agency will not change until you exercise your executive branch responsibility to nominate five new commissioners. It is essential for these nominations to be based on merit, skills, qualifications, experience, background and professional reputation. It is also essential for any nominee to have a basic commitment to enforcing the campaign finance laws as written by Congress and interpreted by the courts. Individuals ideologically opposed to campaign finance laws must no longer be given the responsibility to enforce these laws.
Nominating commissioners based on merit and qualifications may well create a conflict with congressional leaders accustomed to choosing the commissioners themselves. Given the completely dysfunctional state of the FEC and the enormous damage that has been done to our campaign finance laws, however, we believe this is a fight worth having.
Once appropriate nominations are made, the responsibility will pass to the Senate to address the FEC scandal. Senators will face a clear choice: vote to confirm new FEC commissioners selected on the basis of merit and qualifications, or vote to perpetuate a system undermining enforcement of the nation’s campaign finance law at a time when there is growing public anger over the money pouring into federal elections.
The effort to remake the FEC and restore the integrity of our campaign finance laws cannot begin until you nominate five new commissioners. We look forward to the White House official statement in response to our successful “We the People” petition.
Thank you for your consideration.