Group urges more executive actions

While congressional Republicans are slamming President Obama's use of executive action, a public policy group is pushing 15 additional steps the White House could take without backing from Congress.

The proposal comes amid Obama’s “year of action,” the name he has given his effort to move forward with his agenda through administrative steps.

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The Brennan Center for Justice, which bills itself as nonpartisan think tank but is seen by some conservative groups as having a liberal lean, proposes a wide array of actions, including measures to boost participation in elections, tamp down on racial profiling and force corporations to disclose their political spending.

“We believe pretty strongly that there’s another set of goals that can be advanced through executive actions.” Michael Waldman, the center’s president, said in detailing the report. “None of these require congressional approval.”

The report lays out a series of steps meant to increase public involvement in elections. The president, the Brennan Center says, should direct certain federal departments to accept designations as “voter registration agencies," convene a Cabinet-level initiative to develop plans to promote increased participation and hold a White House conference to enlist businesses to aid in the effort.

Other campaign-related items on group’s wish list include an executive order requiring companies who do business with the government to disclose their political spending and more stringent Federal Communications Commission rules for disclaimers of outside spending on political advertisements.

The report calls upon the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revisit plans to issue regulations requiring all publicly traded firms to disclose their political spending to shareholders. The item had been on the SEC’s regulatory agenda, but the agency abandoned the plan late last year.

President Obama should direct the Justice Department to identify federal prisoners eligible for commuted sentences under the Fair Sentencing Act, issue forthcoming regulations on racial profiling and take other steps to reduce “mass incarceration, according to the report.

The center is also calling for an executive order banning federal agencies from asking would-be employees about criminal convictions on job applications, except for positions pertaining to law enforcement or national security.

Conservatives have criticized Obama relentlessly for his use of executive actions to circumvent Congress, but Waldman disagreed.

“President Obama is well within his right and is doing the right thing,” he told reporters Tuesday. “Especially when congress is paralyzed.”