Federal Election Commission Used to be Dysfunctional; Now it’s Gotten Worse

Wednesday, May 06, 2015
Lee Goodman and Ann Ravel

You know a federal agency is in serious trouble when its leader publicly says it can’t do anything meaningful and is “worse than dysfunctional.”


Welcome to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).


The FEC, charged with regulating federal elections laws and enforcing them, particularly those related to contributions, has been set up to gridlock, as Republican commissioner Lee Goodman told The New York Times.


With the commission divided equally between three GOP members and three Democratic members, the FEC constantly disagrees about almost everything, resulting in few meaningful rulings on election law violations.


Chair Ann Ravel joined the FEC in 2013 determined to work toward ending the stalemate among members. But after only a few months of trying, Ravel has pretty much given up hope of stopping fundraising abuses during the 2016 election cycle—which could generate $10 billion in spending, according to Eric Lichtblau of the Times.


“The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim,” Ravel told the Times. “I never want to give up, but I’m not under any illusions. People think the FEC is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional.”


Lichtblau added that “some commissioners are barely on speaking terms, cross-aisle negotiations are infrequent, and with no consensus on which rules to enforce, the caseload against violators has plummeted” at the FEC.


That’s terrible news for those who want to see violators held accountable, and it’s good news for candidates such as Republican Jeb Bush and Democrat Martin O’Malley who have been accused of “skirting finance laws by raising millions without officially declaring that they are considering running,” Lichtblau wrote.


Republicans are perfectly satisfied with the way the commission is working. “Congress set this place up to gridlock,” Goodman said. “This agency is functioning as Congress intended. The democracy isn’t collapsing around us.”


Those who see Charles and David Koch preparing to open their wallets to the tune of $1 billion, with others giving nearly as much in the coming election, as not being a positive sign for democracy might disagree.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

FEC Can’t Curb 2016 Election Abuse, Commission Chief Says (by Eric Lichtblau, New York Times)

Federal Election Commission, with 3-3 Votes, Loosens Restrictions on Campaign Funding (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Federal Election Commission Lawyers Call for Investigation of Illegal Activity by Karl Rove Super PAC…No Action Expected (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Federal Election Commission Accused of Deleting Campaign Donor Records from 2008 Election (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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