Rootstrikers: White House Response Is 'Offensive'

The White House has responded to a petition targeting Citizens United and "secret money in politics" and the answer did not sit well with backers of the petition.

Demand Progress' Rootstrikers activist arm got more than 117,00 signatures on the petition, enough to trigger a White House response, but Roostrikers called it "offensive" and "wholly unsatisfactory."

The White House essentially said the President agreed something needed to be done, Republicans had blocked a congressional attempt to do something, and now it was up to voters to do something.

The White House response pointed out that the President had said in the State of the Union: “We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections—and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution.”

It also pointed out that the President supported the Democrat-backed—though not all Democrats—DISCLOSE (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections) Act, which would have required more transparency in spending (including requiring more detailed on-air disclosures of funding of political ads on radio and TV). But the White House pointed out that it had been blocked by Republicans in Congress in 2010 and 2012.

But the bottom line was, again quoting the President: "I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process -- in not just who gets elected but how they get elected-- that will only happen when the American people demand it. It will depend on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.…Our collective futures depend on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen. To vote. To speak out.”

“This statement released by the White House is nothing short of offensive to the millions of Americans demanding an end to secret money influencing elections," said Kurt Walters, campaign manager at Rootstrikers, in a statement. “The American people have been demanding action from President Obama ever since the 2010 Citizens United decision. He has tools at his disposal, and yet he has done nothing but repeat the same empty rhetoric."

“Now is not the time to continue passing the buck to Republicans in Congress or pointing the finger at Americans for not demanding change loudly enough. With 11 months left in office, President Obama must take a comprehensive set of executive actions now if he wants to redeem his failing legacy of inaction against big money in politics.”

Democrats have backed a bill that would require the FCC to boost its political ad disclosure requirements, but Republicans have blocked it and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has not signaled he intends, though pressed by some of those same Dems, to open an inquiry into doing so on the FCC's own authority.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.