Watchdogs push Obama to make FEC appointments before election

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The groups participating in the signature drive include Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center, Public Citizen, Americans for Campaign Reform, League of Women Voters of the U.S., Common Cause, Public Campaign, United Republic and U.S. PIRG.

The groups have pressured the president to appoint new FEC commissioners since 2009, when the terms of two of the six FEC commissioners expired. Five of the six members are now serving with expired terms.

They say the FEC is dysfunctional and consumed by in-fighting that prevents the agency from policing the unprecedented campaign spending of new outside groups such as super-PACS.

"We've been pursing every avenue we can to push President Obama into taking some action," said Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21.

The groups have sent letters and held meetings with the administration, and expressed their frustration at the lack of response. The group’s leaders expressed a hope that a successful petition would force a response from the White House.

"I'm not saying this is a fight we'll win, but it is a debate worth having, and it's a debate worth having right now," said Sloan.

The groups are hoping to leverage public interest raised by the ongoing GOP primary process to collect signatures. With Newt Gingrich's outspoken attacks against political action committees taking center stage, the public has become more aware and potentially more concerned about campaign finance laws, they said.

"A lot of people feel helpless. They say, 'I don't like it, but what can I do?' At least you can take action to express your dissatisfaction," said Meredith McGehee, the policy director for the Campaign Legal Center.

"The super-PAC virus is only spreading," said Sloan. "Congress has done nothing to improve the situation."

The petition is available here.