So why not, in the same way that sponsors of political ads are required to disclose themselves, require organizers of petition campaigns to disclose who they are as well? One option might be to require E-mail petitions to include a line at the bottom disclosing the organizing entity.
Another useful exercise might be to begin tracking the organizations that are promoting the various proposals "trending" on the Hill at any given time. Chances are, there's a petition campaign behind it, and it would be invaluable to members, their staffs, and the public to know which organizations are petitioning for what. That knowledge could help Congress "handicap" the various priorities that appear to be getting traction on the Hill. Part of the power that petition campaigns currently have right now is their seeming ability to materialize out of nowhere and in great numbers.
Many political reformers bemoan the influence of "special interests" who can demand such congressional largesse as tax breaks and lucrative government contracts.
But at least as pernicious, if not more, are the narrow interests that demand something even more valuable from Congress: their time and attention.
Professional petitioners to Congress might be one more dark corner of the Washington influence industry that deserves more exploration.
- Susan Milligan: Barack Obama and George Bush Show Congress How to Act Like Adults
- Report: At Least 13 U.S. Senate Hopefuls Have Troubled Past
- Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy