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Overview:

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) was created in 1975 to oversee and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act, or FECA, which governs the financing of federal elections. An independent regulatory committee, the role of the FEC is to monitor campaign finance contributions, enforce regulations on spending and campaign funding, and distribute public funds for Presidential elections. The FEC is governed by six Commissioners who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for a six-year term. Seats are staggered so that two members are appointed every two years, and no more than three board members can be of the same political party at one time. To further encourage non-partisan decision-making, at least four votes are required to approve any Commission decision. The chairmanship of the Commission rotates on a yearly basis, and no Commissioner can serve more than once during their term.

 
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History:

In 1971, Congress passed the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), designed to place stricter guidelines on federal election financing and limit the spending and influence of wealthy individuals and special interest groups. While FECA created more stringent disclosure requirements for candidates, political parties and political action committees (PACs), in its original form it did not create a body to enforce these requirements, leading to a number of financial abuses during the 1972 presidential campaign. 

 

In 1974, Congress amended the Federal Election Campaign Act, setting stricter limits on contributions by individuals, parties, and PACs. The amendment also created the FEC, an independent body to oversee and enforce the campaign finance laws. The Commission opened in 1975 and administered the first publicly funded Presidential election in 1976.

 

In 2002, Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin) introduced a bill to revise the FECA. First proposed in 1995, the McCain-Feingold Act gained momentum following the 2000 election, which saw a major increase in so-called “soft money,” political funds contributed to organizations that are not directly tied to a specific candidate’s campaign.   Prior to 2002, soft money was often spent on issues ads, political ads that stopped short of expressly endorsing a particular candidate. Known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, the bill prohibited political parties from raising or spending soft money and restricted the use and funding of issues ads.

 

Current FECA regulations require all candidates and their committees to disclose any money that they raise and spend. Candidates must identify any PACs and organizations that give them contributions, as well as all individuals who contribute more than $200 in one campaign cycle.   The FECA also places limits on the size of contributions from individuals, organizations and PACs. Individuals may contribute up to $2,500 to each candidate per election and up to $30,800 to a national party committee per calendar year.

 

In January 2010, campaign finance laws were shaken up when the Supreme Court, in a narrow vote, overturned a 20-year old ruling that prevented corporations from freely spending money to support or oppose candidates. The court decision—which allows open-ended corporate campaign spending—grew out of a lawsuit filed by the conservative non-profit group Citizens United against the FEC, seeking the right to advertise an anti-Hillary Clinton documentary at the peak of the 2008 campaign season, in spite of restrictions on corporate campaign spending.

Contribution Limits

Federal Election Campaign Laws (pdf)

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What it Does:

The mission of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is to “prevent corruption in the Federal campaign process by administering, enforcing, and formulating policy with respect to Federal campaign finance statutes.” Toward this goal, the FEC’s main activities include disclosing campaign finance information, educating stakeholders on specific provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act, and enforcing the limits and prohibitions in the Act. Headquartered in Washington D.C., the FEC has 375 full-time employees (FY 2013 estimate). Nearly all of the FEC’s budget goes toward salaries and office expenses.

 

The FEC is directed by six Commissioners, each appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. To foster bipartisan decision-making, no more than three Commissioners can be members of the same political party. Each Commissioner serves for a six-year term, with two Commissioners up for replacement every two years. The Chairmanship of the FEC rotates among the Commissioners, with each Commissioner serving for one year during their tenure.  Any official action or policy requires approval of at least four Commissioners.

 

FEC’s activities are organized with three objectives: transparency, compliance, and development of law. 

 

Public Records Office - Disclosing Campaign Financing

One of the most important duties of the FEC is to ensure transparency of campaign contributions and finances. The FEC collects reports from all registered political committees, campaigns and PACs and makes them available within 48 hours on their website. In addition, since its inception in 1972, the FEC has maintained a public record of all campaign activities, funds used to finance federal elections, and personal financial statements filed by Presidential candidates.

 

Office of Compliance - Enforcement of the FECA

The FEC works closely with the Department of Justice to enforce the provisions of the FECA.  The FEC learns of possible election law violations through a voluntary self-reporting program, through a sworn complaint process, through audits of campaign finance reports, and by referrals by other government agencies. The Office of the General Counsel’s Enforcement Division handles most enforcement matters.

Information Division - Clarifying the Law

The third main role of the FEC is to help candidates and organizations understand federal campaign laws. To do this, the FEC produces a variety of publications, including the Record, a monthly newsletter, and provides copies of federal election campaign laws and FEC regulations. The FEC also host conferences in major cities to inform campaign workers and party committees about the law and maintains a library of election law resources and research open to the public.

 

IT Initiatives

To improve public transparency and in order to deal with the increasing workload, the FEC implemented a large-scale IT improvement initiative. This initiative includes the e-Review system, a web-based review and distribution system that allows the FEC to generate, circulate and review campaign finance reports. The FEC also announced development of an Intranet portal, to allow employees to access digital documents and data within the agency.

 

Presidential Election Campaign Fund

Another major role of the FEC is to distribute and administer public funding for Presidential elections. The funds are collected by the IRS through an optional $3 income tax check-off, but are distributed and calculated by the FEC. Candidates who opt-in for the presidential public financing system must agree not to raise or spend private funds or more than $50,000 of their own personal money. The FEC also provides a dollar for dollar match for contributions up to $250 during presidential primaries, if the candidate agrees to limit spending according to FECA regulations.

 

From the Web Site of the Federal Election Commission

Backgrounders

Budget

Calendar

Campaign Finance Reports

Campaign Finance Summaries

Commissioners

Compliance and Reporting

Contracting

Employment

Enforcement Matters

FAQs

Law: Recent Developments

Laws and Regulations

Library

Meetings and Hearings

Offices

Press Releases

Strategy and Performance

Subscription Service

Weekly Digest

What’s New

more
Where Does the Money Go:

In fiscal year 2013, it is estimated that 69.8% of all Federal Election Commission (FEC) expenditures will go to personnel salaries and benefits, 13.2% to OCIO (Office of Chief Information Officer) support and initiatives, 8.8% to facility rentals, and 8.2% to other areas.

 

During the past decade, the FEC spent $65.8 million on over 5,000 transactions with contractors, most of whom are large IT companies specializing in government contracts.

 

The top five recipients of FEC funding between 2002 and 2011are:

1. ATS Corporation                                                                                                    $10,513,713

2. GTSI Corp.                                                                                                                           $4,353,104

3. NIC Inc.                                                                                                                    $4,344,205

4. Savvis Inc.                                                                                                                 $4,044,028

5. Thomson Company Inc.                                                                                           $2,449,779 

 

FEC FY 2013 Congressional Budget Justification (pdf)

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Controversies:

FEC Deadlocked by Partisanship

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) deadlocked in May 2011 on whether to revisit proposed rules to require disclosure in political advertisements by corporations and labor unions. The 3-3 tie between Democratic and Republican appointees on the FEC was nothing new, as partisan divide has increasingly hamstrung the commission from doing its job.

 

Richard Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, told The New York Times that the FEC has been going through “a new period of dysfunction … where you have this kind of deadlock that’s never been seen before.” Hasen attributed the problem to a lack of “cross-party cooperation, and there’s no meeting of the minds on what the role of the FEC should be or even what’s constitutional.”

 

Some critics have blamed Republicans for the standstill, saying the GOP is bent on crippling the commission, if not getting rid of it altogether.

 

In 2006, the FEC handed out $6.7 million in fines to politicians and organizations that broke federal campaign rules. By 2009, less than $1 million in penalties was assessed. Experts said the reduction in fines was a result, in part, of the inability of commissioners to reach consensus.

Election Commission Decisions Deadlocking on Party Lines (by Bernie Becker, New York Times)

Federal Election Commission Deadlocks in Discussions About New Disclosure Rules for Political Advertisements (by Kathleen Ronayne, OpenSecrets.org)

The Toothless Election Police (by Laurel Adams, The Daily Beast)

 

“Creaky” System

In June 2008, Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama declared that he would pass on accepting public financing for his presidential campaign. Had he accepted, his campaign would have been limited to $84 million in spending during the general election. His was the first Presidential campaign to decline public funding since its inception in 1976. Obama described the public finance system as “creaky,” noting that, “the amount of money raised through the public financing system may be substantially lower than the amount of money that can be raised over the Internet.” In January 2011, the House passed a Republican-sponsored bill to eliminate the public financing of presidential campaigns, claiming it would reduce the deficit by $617 million over the coming decade. The Obama administration immediately expressed opposition to the bill, claiming it would “expand the power of corporations and special interests.”

Obama: Public Finance System “Creaky” (by Domenico Montanaro, MSNBC)

 

Replacement of FEC Director

In May 2008, President Bush moved to replace FEC Chairman David Mason, after Mason challenged the legality of Sen. John McCain’s Presidential campaign finance plan. Mason notified Senator McCain that he might violate FECA statutes if he switched from public funding to private donations after securing his party’s nomination. 

Crippled Election Commission (Editorial, New York Times)

 

Bipartisan Congressional Standoff

In 2005, President George W. Bush nominated conservative Republican Hans von Spakovsky to the FEC. After serving on a recess appointment for a year, von Spakovsky was renominated and sent with three other nominees to the Senate for confirmation. Senate Democrats refused to approve von Spakovsky’s nomination, after receiving a letter from former civil service staff of the Voting Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division strongly criticizing von Spakovsky’s prior tenure at the DOJ’s Voting Section, arguing that he used his time at the Voting Section to further “partisan political interests.”  In a written statement, Senator Edward Kennedy noted that von Spakovsky, “may be at the heart of the political interference that is undermining the [Justice] Department's enforcement of federal civil laws."

 

In response to Senate Democrats’ refusal to confirm von Spakovksy, Senate Republicans refused to approve any Democratic nominees to the FEC, resulting in a six-month political standoff that left only two Commissioners at the FEC, effectively stopping any work by the FEC, which requires four votes to take any action. The deadlock ended in June 2008, after von Spakovsky withdrew his nomination to the FEC. The Senate confirmed five new commissioners for the FEC, including two Democrats and three Republicans.

Senate Confirms New FEC Commissioners, Ending Long Partisan Standoff (by John Brenahan, The Politico)

Hans Von Spakovsky: Right Choice for FEC Commissioner? (by Adam Lambert, ePluribus Media)

The Bad FEC Commissioner (by J. Gerald Hebert, Campaign Legal Center)

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Suggested Reforms:

In 2007, U.S. Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold introduced another bill to drastically restructure the FEC. Known as the Federal Election Administration Act, the bill would have replaced the FEC with a three-member board. The board would have been led and directed by a Chairman, appointed by the President for a term of 10 years, with the two remaining board members, one from each party, playing more of a consultative role. The bill did not pass.

Fix the FEC (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

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Debate:

Does the FEC go too far in enforcing campaign laws or is it ineffective?

 

FEC Tramples Rights:

The FEC has received a wide variety of criticisms. Some believe that the agency goes too far in enforcing and administering campaign finance law, thereby infringing on First Amendment rights of free speech.

Fix the McCain-Feingold Law: Oops - Can I Say That? (by Jonathan Rauch, Reason)

 

Feckless FEC:

On the other side of the argument are those who believe that the bipartisan structure of the agency renders it ineffective and toothless. Critics of the FEC, who have nicknamed it the “Failure to Enforce Commission,” note that despite additional 2002 restrictions on campaign finance and contributions, the FEC has passed a number of regulations that provide loopholes on soft money. Further, the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision (see the History section), and consequent FEC rulings, opened even more avenues of campaign spending, allowing the evolution of Super PACs—supposed non-party-affiliated groups that can accept funds from individuals or companies without limit.

Overhaul the FEC: Election watchdog can't stop abuses (Editorial, San Diego Union-Tribune)

Super PACs Find New Way To Hide Money (Huffington Post, Politics)

 

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Former Directors:

David M. Mason (1998-2008)  

Nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1998, Mason was given a second term by President George W. Bush in 2005. Mason attended Lynchburg College in Virginia and graduated cum laude from Claremont McKenna College in California. He served as a staffer on Capitol Hill and was Staff Director to then-House Republican Whip Trent Lott. A Republican, Mason ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1982. Prior to serving on the FEC, Mason was a Senior Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank. 

 

Hans A. von Spakovsky         (2006-2007)

Robert D. Lenhard                  (2006-2007)

Michael E. Toner                    (2002-2007)

Bradley A. Smith                    (2000-2005)

Karl J. Sandstrom                   (1998-2002)

Darryl R. Wold                       (1998-2002)

Trevor Potter                          (1991-1995)

Scott E. Thomas                     (1986 -2006)

Thomas J. Josefiak                 (1985-1991)

Danny L. McDonald              (1981-2006)

Lee Ann Elliott                       (1981-2000)

Frank P. Reiche                       (1979-1985)

Max L. Friedersdorf                (1979-1980)

John Warren McGarry           (1978-1998)

William L. Springer                 (1976-1979)

Robert O. Tiernan                   (1975-1981)

Vernon W. Thomson              (1975-1978)

Neil O. Staebler                       (1975-1978)

Thomas E. Harris                    (1975-1986)

Thomas B. Curtis                   (1975-1976)

Joan D. Aikens                       (1975-1998)

 

Former FEC Commissioners (FEC)

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Comments

Kate Svagdis 5 years ago
why is foreign money. like euphate giving to hiliary clinton or saudis given to obama allowed when i am restricted to $2300. i am an natural born american citizen whose voice is stifled by this law and committee while pacs and dnc contributors run rampant.

Leave a comment

Founded: 1975
Annual Budget: $66.3 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 375 (FY 2013 Estimate)
Official Website: http://www.fec.gov/
Federal Election Commission
Walther, Steven
Chair

Steven T. Walther is the chair of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for 2017. First sworn in as a recess appointee on January 10, 2006, his term expired on December 31, 2007. In June 2008, Walther was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in to complete the rest of his term. He served as vice chair of the FEC for the balance of 2008 and served as chair in 2009. Created in 1975 to enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act, the FEC monitors campaign contributions, enforces campaign finance regulations, and distributes public funds for Presidential elections.

 

Born July 18, 1943, in Reno, Nevada, Steven Walther earned a B.A. in Russian at Notre Dame University in 1965, and a J.D. at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley in 1968.

 

Early in his career, Walther was an attorney at the Jones Vargas law firm in Reno, leaving in 1972 to cofound the law firm of Walther, Key, Maupin, Oats, Cox & LeGoy, now known as Maupin, Cox & LeGoy. Walther practiced law there for 34 years before leaving for the FEC.

 

During his legal career Walther has been active in professional legal and judicial organizations and activities. He is a former member of the board of governors of the American Bar Association and was the co-founder and chair of the ABA Center for Human Rights. He is also a former president of the State Bar of Nevada, the Western States Bar Conference, and the National Caucus of State Bar Associations. From 1971 until his FEC appointment, Walther served as a member of the Nevada State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

 

He served on the executive board of the ABA Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative, which oversees the ABA’s political programs in more than 21 countries, and he was chair of the ABA Standing Committee on World Order Under Law. He has been a member of the board of trustees and lecturer for the National Judicial College, and has lectured on rule of law, human rights, and international law, including at the International University in Moscow.

 

In November 1998, Walther led the election recount team for Democratic Senator Harry Reid after his 428-win over Republican John Ensign. The following year, Reid offered to recommend Walther to be a candidate for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but Walther declined. However, several years later, in July 2005, when Reid recommended him for the FEC, Walther accepted.

 

Walther and his wife, Diane, have three children: Natalie, Mario, and Wyatt.

-Matt Bewig

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Transcript of June 13, 2007, Hearing of Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on Nominations to the Federal Election Commission

Opening Statement of Steven T. Walther at June 13, 2007, Hearing of Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on Nominations to the Federal Election Commission

July 6, 2007, Letter from Steven T. Walther to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration Regarding Hearing on Nominations to the Federal Election Commission and Responses to Post-Hearing Questions 

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Goodman, Lee
Previous Chairman

Lee E. Goodman took a seat on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on October 22, 2013, after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate on September 23. Goodman, a Republican, and Democrat Ann Miller Ravel, were nominated by President Barack Obama on June 21, 2013, to fill vacancies on the panel.  Goodman’s nomination was based the recommendation of Sen. Mitch McConnell. The FEC’s mission is to enforce provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act such as disclosure and restrictions on campaign contributions. Goodman was elected FEC chairman on December 17, 2013, a position that lasts for one year.

 

Goodman was born March 29, 1964, in Danville, Virginia, where his father was a lawyer and his mother a teacher. He attended George Washington High School there and played on the football team. Goodman went on to attend the University of Virginia, graduating with a B.A. in American Government and Rhetoric & Communication Studies in 1986. From 1986 to 1987 he worked as a policy analyst for the Fund for America’s Future, a conservative political action committee. He returned to Charlottesville to attend Virginia law school, where he was articles editor for the school’s Journal of Law & Politics. Goodman received his J.D. in 1990.

 

After graduation, he became an associate at the law firm Wiley Rein & Fielding. In 1995, he was tapped to be special assistant attorney general and associate general counsel to the University of Virginia, where he served two years. He was named in 1997 as counsel to the attorney general of Virginia.

 

Goodman went to work in the office of Gov. Jim Gilmore, a Republican, in 1998. He served as special counselor to the governor, deputy counselor and deputy director of policy during Gilmore’s four-year term. He was also chief of staff to the chairman of the Congressional Advisory Committee on Electronic Commerce from 1999 to 2000. Also in 2000, he was a member of the Bush-Cheney recount team.

 

In 2002, Goodman returned to Wiley Rein, moving to the firm LeClairRyan as a partner in 2005, focusing on election law. He has also lobbied Congress on behalf of such firms as America Online and Time Warner. In 2012, he helped the Ron Paul campaign handle delegate challenges in Louisiana, Massachusetts and Oregon. He also served as general counsel of the Republican Party of Virginia from 2009 to 2013.

 

Goodman has argued that corporations should be able to make contributions to political campaigns. “The vast majority of speech is still going to be carried on by candidates and their campaigns and the political parties,” Goodman said in an interview with OpenSecrets Blog.

 

“I do not think democracy's sky will fall after the Citizens United decision,” he added. “I don't think that the fear that large corporate expenditures are going to drown out the more populist voices in our democracy has ever been borne out.”

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Federal Election Commission Gets New Blood (by Dave Levinthal, Center for Public Integrity)

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Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) was created in 1975 to oversee and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act, or FECA, which governs the financing of federal elections. An independent regulatory committee, the role of the FEC is to monitor campaign finance contributions, enforce regulations on spending and campaign funding, and distribute public funds for Presidential elections. The FEC is governed by six Commissioners who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for a six-year term. Seats are staggered so that two members are appointed every two years, and no more than three board members can be of the same political party at one time. To further encourage non-partisan decision-making, at least four votes are required to approve any Commission decision. The chairmanship of the Commission rotates on a yearly basis, and no Commissioner can serve more than once during their term.

 
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History:

In 1971, Congress passed the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), designed to place stricter guidelines on federal election financing and limit the spending and influence of wealthy individuals and special interest groups. While FECA created more stringent disclosure requirements for candidates, political parties and political action committees (PACs), in its original form it did not create a body to enforce these requirements, leading to a number of financial abuses during the 1972 presidential campaign. 

 

In 1974, Congress amended the Federal Election Campaign Act, setting stricter limits on contributions by individuals, parties, and PACs. The amendment also created the FEC, an independent body to oversee and enforce the campaign finance laws. The Commission opened in 1975 and administered the first publicly funded Presidential election in 1976.

 

In 2002, Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin) introduced a bill to revise the FECA. First proposed in 1995, the McCain-Feingold Act gained momentum following the 2000 election, which saw a major increase in so-called “soft money,” political funds contributed to organizations that are not directly tied to a specific candidate’s campaign.   Prior to 2002, soft money was often spent on issues ads, political ads that stopped short of expressly endorsing a particular candidate. Known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, the bill prohibited political parties from raising or spending soft money and restricted the use and funding of issues ads.

 

Current FECA regulations require all candidates and their committees to disclose any money that they raise and spend. Candidates must identify any PACs and organizations that give them contributions, as well as all individuals who contribute more than $200 in one campaign cycle.   The FECA also places limits on the size of contributions from individuals, organizations and PACs. Individuals may contribute up to $2,500 to each candidate per election and up to $30,800 to a national party committee per calendar year.

 

In January 2010, campaign finance laws were shaken up when the Supreme Court, in a narrow vote, overturned a 20-year old ruling that prevented corporations from freely spending money to support or oppose candidates. The court decision—which allows open-ended corporate campaign spending—grew out of a lawsuit filed by the conservative non-profit group Citizens United against the FEC, seeking the right to advertise an anti-Hillary Clinton documentary at the peak of the 2008 campaign season, in spite of restrictions on corporate campaign spending.

Contribution Limits

Federal Election Campaign Laws (pdf)

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What it Does:

The mission of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is to “prevent corruption in the Federal campaign process by administering, enforcing, and formulating policy with respect to Federal campaign finance statutes.” Toward this goal, the FEC’s main activities include disclosing campaign finance information, educating stakeholders on specific provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act, and enforcing the limits and prohibitions in the Act. Headquartered in Washington D.C., the FEC has 375 full-time employees (FY 2013 estimate). Nearly all of the FEC’s budget goes toward salaries and office expenses.

 

The FEC is directed by six Commissioners, each appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. To foster bipartisan decision-making, no more than three Commissioners can be members of the same political party. Each Commissioner serves for a six-year term, with two Commissioners up for replacement every two years. The Chairmanship of the FEC rotates among the Commissioners, with each Commissioner serving for one year during their tenure.  Any official action or policy requires approval of at least four Commissioners.

 

FEC’s activities are organized with three objectives: transparency, compliance, and development of law. 

 

Public Records Office - Disclosing Campaign Financing

One of the most important duties of the FEC is to ensure transparency of campaign contributions and finances. The FEC collects reports from all registered political committees, campaigns and PACs and makes them available within 48 hours on their website. In addition, since its inception in 1972, the FEC has maintained a public record of all campaign activities, funds used to finance federal elections, and personal financial statements filed by Presidential candidates.

 

Office of Compliance - Enforcement of the FECA

The FEC works closely with the Department of Justice to enforce the provisions of the FECA.  The FEC learns of possible election law violations through a voluntary self-reporting program, through a sworn complaint process, through audits of campaign finance reports, and by referrals by other government agencies. The Office of the General Counsel’s Enforcement Division handles most enforcement matters.

Information Division - Clarifying the Law

The third main role of the FEC is to help candidates and organizations understand federal campaign laws. To do this, the FEC produces a variety of publications, including the Record, a monthly newsletter, and provides copies of federal election campaign laws and FEC regulations. The FEC also host conferences in major cities to inform campaign workers and party committees about the law and maintains a library of election law resources and research open to the public.

 

IT Initiatives

To improve public transparency and in order to deal with the increasing workload, the FEC implemented a large-scale IT improvement initiative. This initiative includes the e-Review system, a web-based review and distribution system that allows the FEC to generate, circulate and review campaign finance reports. The FEC also announced development of an Intranet portal, to allow employees to access digital documents and data within the agency.

 

Presidential Election Campaign Fund

Another major role of the FEC is to distribute and administer public funding for Presidential elections. The funds are collected by the IRS through an optional $3 income tax check-off, but are distributed and calculated by the FEC. Candidates who opt-in for the presidential public financing system must agree not to raise or spend private funds or more than $50,000 of their own personal money. The FEC also provides a dollar for dollar match for contributions up to $250 during presidential primaries, if the candidate agrees to limit spending according to FECA regulations.

 

From the Web Site of the Federal Election Commission

Backgrounders

Budget

Calendar

Campaign Finance Reports

Campaign Finance Summaries

Commissioners

Compliance and Reporting

Contracting

Employment

Enforcement Matters

FAQs

Law: Recent Developments

Laws and Regulations

Library

Meetings and Hearings

Offices

Press Releases

Strategy and Performance

Subscription Service

Weekly Digest

What’s New

more
Where Does the Money Go:

In fiscal year 2013, it is estimated that 69.8% of all Federal Election Commission (FEC) expenditures will go to personnel salaries and benefits, 13.2% to OCIO (Office of Chief Information Officer) support and initiatives, 8.8% to facility rentals, and 8.2% to other areas.

 

During the past decade, the FEC spent $65.8 million on over 5,000 transactions with contractors, most of whom are large IT companies specializing in government contracts.

 

The top five recipients of FEC funding between 2002 and 2011are:

1. ATS Corporation                                                                                                    $10,513,713

2. GTSI Corp.                                                                                                                           $4,353,104

3. NIC Inc.                                                                                                                    $4,344,205

4. Savvis Inc.                                                                                                                 $4,044,028

5. Thomson Company Inc.                                                                                           $2,449,779 

 

FEC FY 2013 Congressional Budget Justification (pdf)

more
Controversies:

FEC Deadlocked by Partisanship

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) deadlocked in May 2011 on whether to revisit proposed rules to require disclosure in political advertisements by corporations and labor unions. The 3-3 tie between Democratic and Republican appointees on the FEC was nothing new, as partisan divide has increasingly hamstrung the commission from doing its job.

 

Richard Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, told The New York Times that the FEC has been going through “a new period of dysfunction … where you have this kind of deadlock that’s never been seen before.” Hasen attributed the problem to a lack of “cross-party cooperation, and there’s no meeting of the minds on what the role of the FEC should be or even what’s constitutional.”

 

Some critics have blamed Republicans for the standstill, saying the GOP is bent on crippling the commission, if not getting rid of it altogether.

 

In 2006, the FEC handed out $6.7 million in fines to politicians and organizations that broke federal campaign rules. By 2009, less than $1 million in penalties was assessed. Experts said the reduction in fines was a result, in part, of the inability of commissioners to reach consensus.

Election Commission Decisions Deadlocking on Party Lines (by Bernie Becker, New York Times)

Federal Election Commission Deadlocks in Discussions About New Disclosure Rules for Political Advertisements (by Kathleen Ronayne, OpenSecrets.org)

The Toothless Election Police (by Laurel Adams, The Daily Beast)

 

“Creaky” System

In June 2008, Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama declared that he would pass on accepting public financing for his presidential campaign. Had he accepted, his campaign would have been limited to $84 million in spending during the general election. His was the first Presidential campaign to decline public funding since its inception in 1976. Obama described the public finance system as “creaky,” noting that, “the amount of money raised through the public financing system may be substantially lower than the amount of money that can be raised over the Internet.” In January 2011, the House passed a Republican-sponsored bill to eliminate the public financing of presidential campaigns, claiming it would reduce the deficit by $617 million over the coming decade. The Obama administration immediately expressed opposition to the bill, claiming it would “expand the power of corporations and special interests.”

Obama: Public Finance System “Creaky” (by Domenico Montanaro, MSNBC)

 

Replacement of FEC Director

In May 2008, President Bush moved to replace FEC Chairman David Mason, after Mason challenged the legality of Sen. John McCain’s Presidential campaign finance plan. Mason notified Senator McCain that he might violate FECA statutes if he switched from public funding to private donations after securing his party’s nomination. 

Crippled Election Commission (Editorial, New York Times)

 

Bipartisan Congressional Standoff

In 2005, President George W. Bush nominated conservative Republican Hans von Spakovsky to the FEC. After serving on a recess appointment for a year, von Spakovsky was renominated and sent with three other nominees to the Senate for confirmation. Senate Democrats refused to approve von Spakovsky’s nomination, after receiving a letter from former civil service staff of the Voting Section of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division strongly criticizing von Spakovsky’s prior tenure at the DOJ’s Voting Section, arguing that he used his time at the Voting Section to further “partisan political interests.”  In a written statement, Senator Edward Kennedy noted that von Spakovsky, “may be at the heart of the political interference that is undermining the [Justice] Department's enforcement of federal civil laws."

 

In response to Senate Democrats’ refusal to confirm von Spakovksy, Senate Republicans refused to approve any Democratic nominees to the FEC, resulting in a six-month political standoff that left only two Commissioners at the FEC, effectively stopping any work by the FEC, which requires four votes to take any action. The deadlock ended in June 2008, after von Spakovsky withdrew his nomination to the FEC. The Senate confirmed five new commissioners for the FEC, including two Democrats and three Republicans.

Senate Confirms New FEC Commissioners, Ending Long Partisan Standoff (by John Brenahan, The Politico)

Hans Von Spakovsky: Right Choice for FEC Commissioner? (by Adam Lambert, ePluribus Media)

The Bad FEC Commissioner (by J. Gerald Hebert, Campaign Legal Center)

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Suggested Reforms:

In 2007, U.S. Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold introduced another bill to drastically restructure the FEC. Known as the Federal Election Administration Act, the bill would have replaced the FEC with a three-member board. The board would have been led and directed by a Chairman, appointed by the President for a term of 10 years, with the two remaining board members, one from each party, playing more of a consultative role. The bill did not pass.

Fix the FEC (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

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Debate:

Does the FEC go too far in enforcing campaign laws or is it ineffective?

 

FEC Tramples Rights:

The FEC has received a wide variety of criticisms. Some believe that the agency goes too far in enforcing and administering campaign finance law, thereby infringing on First Amendment rights of free speech.

Fix the McCain-Feingold Law: Oops - Can I Say That? (by Jonathan Rauch, Reason)

 

Feckless FEC:

On the other side of the argument are those who believe that the bipartisan structure of the agency renders it ineffective and toothless. Critics of the FEC, who have nicknamed it the “Failure to Enforce Commission,” note that despite additional 2002 restrictions on campaign finance and contributions, the FEC has passed a number of regulations that provide loopholes on soft money. Further, the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision (see the History section), and consequent FEC rulings, opened even more avenues of campaign spending, allowing the evolution of Super PACs—supposed non-party-affiliated groups that can accept funds from individuals or companies without limit.

Overhaul the FEC: Election watchdog can't stop abuses (Editorial, San Diego Union-Tribune)

Super PACs Find New Way To Hide Money (Huffington Post, Politics)

 

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Former Directors:

David M. Mason (1998-2008)  

Nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1998, Mason was given a second term by President George W. Bush in 2005. Mason attended Lynchburg College in Virginia and graduated cum laude from Claremont McKenna College in California. He served as a staffer on Capitol Hill and was Staff Director to then-House Republican Whip Trent Lott. A Republican, Mason ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1982. Prior to serving on the FEC, Mason was a Senior Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank. 

 

Hans A. von Spakovsky         (2006-2007)

Robert D. Lenhard                  (2006-2007)

Michael E. Toner                    (2002-2007)

Bradley A. Smith                    (2000-2005)

Karl J. Sandstrom                   (1998-2002)

Darryl R. Wold                       (1998-2002)

Trevor Potter                          (1991-1995)

Scott E. Thomas                     (1986 -2006)

Thomas J. Josefiak                 (1985-1991)

Danny L. McDonald              (1981-2006)

Lee Ann Elliott                       (1981-2000)

Frank P. Reiche                       (1979-1985)

Max L. Friedersdorf                (1979-1980)

John Warren McGarry           (1978-1998)

William L. Springer                 (1976-1979)

Robert O. Tiernan                   (1975-1981)

Vernon W. Thomson              (1975-1978)

Neil O. Staebler                       (1975-1978)

Thomas E. Harris                    (1975-1986)

Thomas B. Curtis                   (1975-1976)

Joan D. Aikens                       (1975-1998)

 

Former FEC Commissioners (FEC)

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Comments

Kate Svagdis 5 years ago
why is foreign money. like euphate giving to hiliary clinton or saudis given to obama allowed when i am restricted to $2300. i am an natural born american citizen whose voice is stifled by this law and committee while pacs and dnc contributors run rampant.

Leave a comment

Founded: 1975
Annual Budget: $66.3 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 375 (FY 2013 Estimate)
Official Website: http://www.fec.gov/
Federal Election Commission
Walther, Steven
Chair

Steven T. Walther is the chair of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for 2017. First sworn in as a recess appointee on January 10, 2006, his term expired on December 31, 2007. In June 2008, Walther was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in to complete the rest of his term. He served as vice chair of the FEC for the balance of 2008 and served as chair in 2009. Created in 1975 to enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act, the FEC monitors campaign contributions, enforces campaign finance regulations, and distributes public funds for Presidential elections.

 

Born July 18, 1943, in Reno, Nevada, Steven Walther earned a B.A. in Russian at Notre Dame University in 1965, and a J.D. at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley in 1968.

 

Early in his career, Walther was an attorney at the Jones Vargas law firm in Reno, leaving in 1972 to cofound the law firm of Walther, Key, Maupin, Oats, Cox & LeGoy, now known as Maupin, Cox & LeGoy. Walther practiced law there for 34 years before leaving for the FEC.

 

During his legal career Walther has been active in professional legal and judicial organizations and activities. He is a former member of the board of governors of the American Bar Association and was the co-founder and chair of the ABA Center for Human Rights. He is also a former president of the State Bar of Nevada, the Western States Bar Conference, and the National Caucus of State Bar Associations. From 1971 until his FEC appointment, Walther served as a member of the Nevada State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

 

He served on the executive board of the ABA Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative, which oversees the ABA’s political programs in more than 21 countries, and he was chair of the ABA Standing Committee on World Order Under Law. He has been a member of the board of trustees and lecturer for the National Judicial College, and has lectured on rule of law, human rights, and international law, including at the International University in Moscow.

 

In November 1998, Walther led the election recount team for Democratic Senator Harry Reid after his 428-win over Republican John Ensign. The following year, Reid offered to recommend Walther to be a candidate for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but Walther declined. However, several years later, in July 2005, when Reid recommended him for the FEC, Walther accepted.

 

Walther and his wife, Diane, have three children: Natalie, Mario, and Wyatt.

-Matt Bewig

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Transcript of June 13, 2007, Hearing of Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on Nominations to the Federal Election Commission

Opening Statement of Steven T. Walther at June 13, 2007, Hearing of Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on Nominations to the Federal Election Commission

July 6, 2007, Letter from Steven T. Walther to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration Regarding Hearing on Nominations to the Federal Election Commission and Responses to Post-Hearing Questions 

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Goodman, Lee
Previous Chairman

Lee E. Goodman took a seat on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on October 22, 2013, after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate on September 23. Goodman, a Republican, and Democrat Ann Miller Ravel, were nominated by President Barack Obama on June 21, 2013, to fill vacancies on the panel.  Goodman’s nomination was based the recommendation of Sen. Mitch McConnell. The FEC’s mission is to enforce provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act such as disclosure and restrictions on campaign contributions. Goodman was elected FEC chairman on December 17, 2013, a position that lasts for one year.

 

Goodman was born March 29, 1964, in Danville, Virginia, where his father was a lawyer and his mother a teacher. He attended George Washington High School there and played on the football team. Goodman went on to attend the University of Virginia, graduating with a B.A. in American Government and Rhetoric & Communication Studies in 1986. From 1986 to 1987 he worked as a policy analyst for the Fund for America’s Future, a conservative political action committee. He returned to Charlottesville to attend Virginia law school, where he was articles editor for the school’s Journal of Law & Politics. Goodman received his J.D. in 1990.

 

After graduation, he became an associate at the law firm Wiley Rein & Fielding. In 1995, he was tapped to be special assistant attorney general and associate general counsel to the University of Virginia, where he served two years. He was named in 1997 as counsel to the attorney general of Virginia.

 

Goodman went to work in the office of Gov. Jim Gilmore, a Republican, in 1998. He served as special counselor to the governor, deputy counselor and deputy director of policy during Gilmore’s four-year term. He was also chief of staff to the chairman of the Congressional Advisory Committee on Electronic Commerce from 1999 to 2000. Also in 2000, he was a member of the Bush-Cheney recount team.

 

In 2002, Goodman returned to Wiley Rein, moving to the firm LeClairRyan as a partner in 2005, focusing on election law. He has also lobbied Congress on behalf of such firms as America Online and Time Warner. In 2012, he helped the Ron Paul campaign handle delegate challenges in Louisiana, Massachusetts and Oregon. He also served as general counsel of the Republican Party of Virginia from 2009 to 2013.

 

Goodman has argued that corporations should be able to make contributions to political campaigns. “The vast majority of speech is still going to be carried on by candidates and their campaigns and the political parties,” Goodman said in an interview with OpenSecrets Blog.

 

“I do not think democracy's sky will fall after the Citizens United decision,” he added. “I don't think that the fear that large corporate expenditures are going to drown out the more populist voices in our democracy has ever been borne out.”

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Federal Election Commission Gets New Blood (by Dave Levinthal, Center for Public Integrity)

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