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Obama Not Taking Enough Executive Actions? These Legal Scholars Think He Should Take 15 More

Greater disclosure of political spending, increasing voter participation and addressing overcrowded prisons are all matters that President Barack Obama can and should take executive action on, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Law and Justice at New York University.

President Barack Obama addresses the National Action Network convention in New York, Friday, April 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, Pool)

“Most of his executive actions have dealt with the environment and the economy,” Brennan Center President Michael Waldman said. “We believe there is another set of goals that can be advanced with a pen and a phone.”

The Brennan Center called for the administration to take 15 more executive actions, even as Republicans, and liberal constitutional scholars such as George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, have accused Obama of executive overreach.

Waldman said Obama is by no means overreaching.

“Any president has a duty to do all he can so long as it is legal and constitutional to advance their goals, especially when Congress is paralyzed,” Waldman told reporters during a press conference call.

Earlier this month the Supreme Court further relaxed restrictions on political donations to political campaigns. They called on the president to request the Securities and Exchange Commission issue regulations requiring disclosure of corporate political spending; and that the president sign an executive order requiring all federal contractors to disclose their political giving.

Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan democracy program, told TheBlaze that this was a matter of addressing potential corruption.

“The real issue is nondisclosure,” Weiser said. “The public is unaware of who the federal contractors' political spending. The politicians most likely are aware.”

The law center says that Obama should recruit help from the private sector to increase voter participating and make voter registration available at federal business as it already is in many local government buildings under the motor voter law.

The center wants Obama to issue an executive order to assess the awarding of criminal justice grants based on successful practices rather than issuing grants on "auto pilot." The hope is to use federal dollars to address how state and local governments address prosecution of non-violent crimes and reduce prison overcrowding. 

Inimai Chettiar, direct of the center's justice program, asserted that the U.S. has 5 percent of the world's population and 20 percent of the world's prison population.

It also called for an executive order to further disclose “secret laws,” such as actions approved by the FISA court.

The White House did not respond to request for comment Tuesday.

The 15 executive actions proposed by the Brennan center include:

  1. Commission a Justice Department report, The Constitution in 2025, modeled after The Constitution in the Year 2000.
  2. Direct federal agencies to find ways to increase voter participation nationwide.
  3. Direct federal agencies to accept designation as National Voter Registration Act agencies.
  4. Enlist the private sector to assure free and fair elections.
  5. Appoint Republicans and Democrats to the Election Assistance and Federal Election Commissions.
  6. Sign an executive order requiring disclosure of political spending by entities awarded government contracts.
  7. Request that the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue regulations requiring disclosure of corporate political spending.
  8. Request that the Federal Communications Commission to require more thorough disclaimers of outside spending on political advertisements.
  9. Create a Presidential Commission on Mass Incarceration.
  10. Issue an executive order directing federal agencies to recast their criminal justice grants in a Success-Oriented Funding Model.
  11. Direct the Justice Department to identify federal prisoners to whom the Fair Sentencing Act would retroactively apply, and recommend commutations for all those eligible, barring exceptional circumstances.
  12. Issue an executive order to “ban the box” on federal agency job applications, except for law enforcement positions.
  13. Direct the Attorney General to issue new guidance banning discriminatory law enforcement techniques.
  14. Request that the Attorney General survey the use of “secret law” in the federal government and develop procedures to make the law public.
  15. Issue an executive order applying key federal information-sharing restrictions to “suspicious activity reports” provided by state and local law enforcement.



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