Federal Election Commission Chair Decries FEC’s Inability to Enforce Campaign Finance Laws

Published on October 14, 2019 by Athena Pallas

First, let’s note that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) currently only has three of its six commissioner posts occupied, which means it does not even have enough commissioners, i.e. four, to make a quorum, so it cannot conduct official business. Then let’s note that it is President Trump’s job to fill those posts, and it is unclear when Trump will at least appoint a fourth commissioner, to replace FEC vice chairman Matthew Petersen, who left in August. In its current state, where it cannot form a quorum, the FEC can only do basic administrative tasks and cannot even investigate possible campaign violations, let alone enforce campaign finance laws.

FEC chair Ellen Weintraub is now decrying this status of the FEC, especially in light of campaign finance violations being in the forefront of the news, including with the arrest of two of Rudy Giuliani’s associates for alleged campaign finance violations in part benefiting the Trump campaign. Weintraub said in an interview with The Washington Post, according to The Hill, “When campaign finance issues are on the front pages of the newspaper every single day, this is a particularly bad time for the FEC not to have a quorum and not be able to respond to enforcement matters, not to be able to have new rulemaking or issue advisory opinions.” While the FEC’s position is currently troubled due to that lack of a quorum, Weintraub asserted, however, that the law is clear when it comes to foreign assistance in elections not being allowed, with Weibtraub saying earlier this month, according to The Hill, “The law is pretty clear. It is absolutely illegal for anyone to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with any election in the United States.” According to The Hill:

Federal Elections Commission (FEC) chair Ellen Weintraub lamented the board’s inability to enforce campaign finance law in the U.S., saying in a new interview there “may well be a lot of money that is slipping into our system that we just don’t know about.”…She also also addressed the struggles her agency’s faced in light of FEC vice chairman Matthew Petersen’s decision to resign in August, leaving the FEC with only three commissioners out of six seats. The move resulted in the organization being short of a quorum, which is necessary for it to conduct official business. It is unclear when Trump will appoint another chairman. …The lack of quorum means the agency is unable complete investigations into possible campaign violations, audit campaign committees or make new rules. According to guidelines released in 2008, the FEC can only conduct basic administrative functions without four chairs.

President Trump and some of his allies face allegations, some official and many as yet unofficial, of violating campaign finance laws. The FEC is tasked with helping to investigate such violations and enforce the law when the allegations are supported. The FEC currently doesn’t have enough commissioners to be able to conduct this official business. It is President Trump’s job to appoint those commissioners, which then have to be confirmed by the Senate. Trump appears not to be in any hurry to fill the empty posts, which benefits him personally, but is a dereliction of his duty and his responsibility to protect our elections. That would seem to be a woeful conflict of interest and represent yet another area where Trump has too much of an opportunity to act out of his own interests, allowing the FEC to stay without enough commissioners to make a quorum, rather than acting in the country’s interests, ensuring that the FEC has enough commissioners to conduct official business and safeguard our elections.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.