Yikes! Resignation Renders Federal Election Commission Incapable of Upholding Campaign Finance Laws.

The Vice Chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Matthew Petersen, announced that he will be resigning. With a resignation like this, the FEC would normally carry on with its responsibilities of monitoring federal elections and ensuring fair politics while a replacement is found. But this is not just an ordinary resignation. 

Two seats were already vacant. Mr. Petersen’s resignation therefore means that only three of the six seats on the Commission will be filled. Because FEC action requires a quorum of four of the six members to be present, until a fourth member is nominated and approved, the FEC is effectively shutdown. The Commission will be unable to serve as a campaign finance watchdog for citizens (and consumers) for the foreseeable future.

FEC chair Ellen Weintraub spoke out on the matter, stating:

I think it’s completely unacceptable. This agency was set up after Watergate to follow the money – to make sure that the American public has the important information they need to make informed decisions about who to vote for and who’s supporting those candidates. Who do they owe debts to when they come into office? What positions are they likely to be pursuing to protect the interests of their donors? . . .

Money in politics is the beginning of every policy decision that gets made in Washington, and it is just vitally important that there is an agency that is fully functional and able to make sure that money that is being received is being done so legally, that it’s not coming from illegal sources – certainly not from foreign sources – and that if people are violating the laws that there will be a consequence. And we cannot do that right now.”

As Weintraub mentioned, the FEC was created after Watergate in 1975 as an agency primarily responsible for regulating matters of campaign finance. No party can have more than three members on the Commission, and four members must agree for any proposal to pass. These checks and balances were instituted to insulate the commission from politics, but by failing to make appointments, politics has found a way to hold the whole Commission hostage. 

One of the seats has not been filled in over a year and a half, when Ann Ravel stepped down. And another seat has been vacant since March of 2017. This means that the FEC has been operating at its bare minimum since February of 2018!

Also, all three actively serving members of the FEC are serving well beyond the expirations of their terms (the most recent expired way back in 2013). In the case of the current chair, Ellen Weintraub, Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump have all failed to nominate a replacement – so she has just continued to serve.

Unfortunately, Congress has seemingly been in no rush to approve Trump’s singular nomination for a vacant seat, Trey Trainor, a Republican Texas attorney. Congress has refused a confirmation hearing for Trainor – on three separate occasions. Meanwhile, Democrats have not yet put up any names to be considered for nomination.

We do not know if it will occur before the 2020 elections, but a fourth seat must be filled. In the meantime, any issues involving elections and campaign finance may go unresolved, as the enforcement powers of the FEC will be ineffective for the foreseeable future.

This is another reason why voting with your wallet is so important. Collectively as citizens we can help police corporate money in politics! Download the free Goods Unite Us app today to stay up-to-date with corporate money in politics. 

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