Below are copies of two messages dealing with the League and ads. The first is the copy from the memo emailed to State League presidents on Friday, January 20, 2011 alerting them to a campaign ad released by the President Obama. In that ad, he quoted several sources, including a joint press statement sent in April of 2009 by the League, Common Cause and other good government groups commending the then new Administration's ethics policies. Use of the statement was not authorized by the League. The second is a brief response that was sent to the NYT and Time magazine in response to their questions about MA.
January 20, 2012
I want to inform you about a surprising new development. We have learned that President Obama has a reference to both the League of Women Voters and Common Cause in the new re-election ad that he released this week in the states of IA, MI, NC, OH, VA and WA. The link to the ad is here. We had no knowledge that this would happen until after the ad began running.
The reference to us relates to a statement entitled “Reform Groups Strongly Praise President Obama’s Government Integrity Reform Measures During the First Hundred Days”, that we and four other groups issued in April 2009.
We all know that whenever the League name comes up in a campaign context, that fact is intentionally or unintentionally interpreted as showing that we are partisan. We have had almost no calls or emails on this to date, but we know that questions will arise. We at LWVUS are working to develop a response that sets the record straight, but does so without sounding overly defensive. Recent focus group research that we have conducted suggests that we should continue to demonstrate that we are non-partisan by our actions at all levels, and not feel compelled to spend too much time defending ourselves against every charge to the contrary.
That research also suggests that we should consider this kind of visibility as a positive development. The ad refers to us as an “independent government watchdog group”, and the clear inference is that we have enough credibility and name recognition for the President to think that our opinion matters and should be shared.
In any event, I wanted to make sure all of you have the facts about what is going on. I will, of course, send to you any statement or talking points that we develop on this topic.
And so the presidential election year begins! I know we are all committed to making the most of the opportunities, and doing our best to minimize the challenges, in the year ahead.
The right way to approach SuperPACs is to pass real disclosure legislation and have the Federal Election Commission (FEC) enforce existing law about coordinated expenditures or so-called “independent” ads.
The League’s ads ran in April of 2011 in Massachusetts and Missouri, and were issue ads aimed at holding public officials accountable for their votes in Congress. The only votes we are interested in influencing are the votes in Congress. These ads were not in support or opposition of any candidate but in support of the Clean Air Act. The League does not support or oppose any candidates or parties.