Obama steps up anti-Koch campaign with online petition

Christopher Bedford Former Editor in Chief, The Daily Caller News Foundation
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In a series of tweets, United States President Barack Obama announced a new stage of his campaign against private businessmen and free-market philanthropists Charles and David Koch, this time attacking the non-profit organization Americans for Prosperity with a petition to “demand that the Koch brothers make their donors public.”

In the initial tweet, the president wrote to campaign manager Jim Messina and the general public, typing, “@Messina2012 challenges the Koch brothers to disclose the donors funding their attacks ads.” In a follow-up three minutes later, the president tweeted, “Add your name to demand that the Koch brothers make their donors public.”

Twitter users who click the provided link are brought to an official my.barackobama.com website titled “Demand the truth” with a space to give their names, email addresses and zip codes, complete with a campaign message that reads, “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.'” (RELATED: Pro-Obama super PAC a bust in January fundraising)

“We’re asking them to prove it,” the message continues, “by disclosing their donors to the public.”

“Demand the truth,” the page concludes, “by adding your name.”

Though petitions rarely have an effect, they are a well-known method of collecting names and email 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.

The Obama campaign’s petition drive follows an anti-Koch letter released by Messina on Wednesday. The Daily Caller’s Neil Munro reported, “The new anti-Koch letter illustrates the Democrats’ attempt to energize progressive supporters by highlighting Obama’s disagreements with the energy-industry billionaires Charles and David Koch.”

“The libertarian Koch brothers have funded [petition-target] Americans For Prosperity,” Munro continued, “whose members have rallied and protested against Obama’s progressive efforts to gain federal control over additional portions of the national economy.” (RELATED: Obama campaign manager uses free-market group for 2012 punching bag)

“The administration is failing on jobs and the economy, and is determined to find someone else to blame,” Americans For Prosperity Director of Public Affairs Levi Russell wrote TheDC in an email. “Frankly,” he continued, “I find the attacks and vilification of our grassroots activists and supporters decidedly un-presidential. From the Obama for America fundraising pleas to this silly attempt to capture email addresses, it appears the president’s re-election strategy is to divert attention away from his terrible policies rather than take responsibility and get serious about the real problems our country faces.”

In a letter published in The Wall Street Journal on Feb. 1 titled “Obama’s Enemy List,” former U.S. solicitor general Theodore Olson, who currently represents Koch Industries, wrote, “In this country, we regard the use of official power to oppress or intimidate private citizens as a despicable abuse of authority and entirely alien to our system of a government of laws.”

“The misuse of government power to damage or demean one’s political enemies is abhorrent and the very antithesis of a free society and a government of laws, not men,” Olson continued. “It is time for the public to ask those engaged in these practices, ‘Have you no sense of decency?'”

Those that fill out the anti-Koch petition are brought through to a contribution site that warns supporters that, “Every day between now and Election Day, we’re going to be up against groups like Americans for Prosperity who are pouring millions of dollars into trying to tear down the president.”

“It’s on all of us to help build the organization it will take to fight back.”

The website then asks for a donation to Obama of between $10 and $2,500.

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