Disappointed, Common Cause Urges Presidential Leadership on Campaign Reform

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  • Dale Eisman

Disappointed that President Obama has failed over the last two years to begin fixing the broken presidential public financing system, and that he now appears ready to run outside that system once again, Common Cause is calling on the President to show leadership by urging “independent” supporters to renounce contributions from corporate and union treasuries, and to disclose all donors. The organization will ask all presidential candidates to do the same.

“Your moral leadership, now.would set a powerful example, one that candidates and independent committees would ignore at their peril,” Common Cause President Bob Edgar wrote in an open letter to the President.

Common Cause is troubled by reports detailing plans by some of President Obama’s supporters to focus heavily on big donors in his re-election campaign, and by his apparent blessing of the creation of an independent group unbound by spending limits and able to raise money from corporate and union treasuries on his behalf. This approach is a departure from candidate Obama’s 2008 campaign in which he rebuffed supporters’ efforts to create “independent” groups on his behalf, and enthusiastically amassed a large base of small donors.

Common Cause believes the proliferation of independent expenditure groups, able to raise unlimited amounts of money from corporate and union treasuries and wealthy individuals, and to hide the identities of their donors, is the most disturbing development in American politics since the Watergate era. It is now all legal under the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

In 2008, candidate Obama was the first in history to opt out of the presidential public finance system for the general election; he went on to raise around $750 million dollars. While he relied nearly equally on large and small donors, his campaign was widely recognized for its success in engaging small donors online.

Weekend media reports suggest that Obama’s fundraising strategy will be to step away from that grassroots base, and to court major donors.

Common Cause noted in the letter the organization was pleased that the host committee for the 2012 Democratic National Convention has already has taken steps to limit special interest contributions to its event.

“We urge you to follow the committee’s example,” Edgar wrote. “The American people are weary of the never-ending, all-consuming pursuit of political money and hungry for a chance to re-claim control of their elections.”

“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 letter said.

Click here to read the full letter.

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