February 29, 2012; Source: The Daily Caller

How often do you find the president of the United States launching a petition campaign with a personal tweet? President Obama has done just that, tweeting to his campaign manager, Jim Messina, “@Messina2012 challenges the Koch brothers to disclose the donors funding their attack ads.” The president then clarified his syntax in another tweet, calling on Americans to “Add your name to demand that the Koch brothers make their donors public.”

Tweets are a difficult communications medium. Messages of 140 characters or less are sometimes a little difficult to understand. The link on the president’s tweets goes to the my.barackobama.com website where there is this petition:

Americans for Prosperity, the special-interest front group run by the oil billionaire Koch brothers, is claiming that its donors are ‘tens of thousands’ of folks ‘from all walks of life.’ We’re asking them to prove it by disclosing their donors to the public. Demand the truth by adding your name.”

The Daily Caller smartly notes that petitions are mostly useful as mechanisms for “collecting names and e-mail addresses of like-minded people for campaign and commercial mailing lists, often focusing on inciting readers to an emotional point where they will volunteer personal information.” In fact, those who fill out the petition are then connected to a website asking for donations between $10 and $2,500 for the Obama reelection campaign.

In any case, it is good to see the president taking a stance in favor of donor disclosure in 501(c)(4)s. It would be a good thing for Americans for Prosperity, Crossroads GPS, and others to do it, as secrecy in campaign financing through the subterfuge of 501(c)(4)s is bad for American democracy. Presumably, President Obama and campaign manager Messina know that the call for transparency among donors to conservative (c)(4)s would be applicable to liberal or progressive (c)(4)s, too.

Tweet on, Mr. President, tweet on! –Rick Cohen