Open letter to President Obama, 4-4-11

April 4, 2011

The Honorable Barack Obama

The White House

Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

Your term began with bright promise for those of us who believe in the importance of reforming the way we pay for elections. Today's formal announcement of your re-election campaign prompts me to express our disappointment in your leadership as President on this issue.

Despite some strong rhetoric in support of campaign finance reform after the Citizens United decision, your administration has offered no proposals to fix the presidential public finance system and provided only lukewarm support for legislation - the Fair Elections Now Act - that would encourage candidates for Congress to use the small donor model you employed successfully in 2008. And while your strong support last year for the DISCLOSE Act was welcomed, we're disappointed that your administration has done nothing to revive that important proposal in the 112th Congress.

Looking toward 2012, it was particularly troubling to read multiple media reports over the weekend that your advisers plan to lean more heavily on large donors and that two of your former staffers, Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, are about to establish an independent expenditure group to raise money on your behalf.

Common Cause believes the proliferation of such independent groups, funded largely by corporate and union treasuries and wealthy individuals, and able to hide the identities of their donors, is the most disturbing development in American politics since the Watergate era.

We understand that your political opponents are prepared to use such groups to raise hundreds of millions of dollars against you. We do not expect you to engage in the political equivalent of unilateral disarmament.

But as President, in possession of the ultimate bully pulpit, you are hardly defenseless. Your moral leadership, now, to redouble your 2008 campaign's focus on small donors, and call on your "independent" supporters to renounce contributions from corporate and union treasuries and disclose all donors, would set a powerful example, one other candidates and independent committees would ignore at their peril. We're pleased to note that the host committee for the 2012 Democratic National Convention already has taken similar steps to govern fundraising for the convention.

Common Cause urges you to follow the committee's example. In the months ahead, we'll be calling on every candidate for President, the House and the Senate to take these and other steps to put voters back in charge of our elections. The American people, we are convinced, are weary of the never-ending, all-consuming pursuit of political money and hungry for a chance to re-claim control of their government.


Bob Edgar


Common Cause

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