If you’re having trouble keeping up with the avalanche of acronyms that is US politics, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is the agency that enforces campaign finance law. The FEC’s mission ensures that campaigns aren’t unduly influenced by foreign governments and that donations meant for an election don’t end up funding an Italian vacation.
The trouble is, like many other bodies, the FEC can only function when it has a quorum. For the 6 member body, this means at least 4 members must be present for any enforcement of campaign finance laws to take place.
4 people seems like an insignificant problem until you realize that FEC nominees have to clear the same Advise & Consent hurdles as United States Supreme Court justices. So the President must nominate someone, the Senate must schedule deliberations, and must finally vote to confirm the nominee. This is why the FEC didn’t function for the 9 months leading up to May 19 when President Trump’s nominee, James Trainor III, was confirmed.
After less than 3 months, the FEC is once again out of “commission.” Commissioner Caroline Hunter resigned on July 3rd, once again dropping the number of commissioners below quorum. Commissioner terms are 6 years long and always end on April 30th. Additionally, two seats are subject to appointment every 2 years. But terms often end before new commissioners are confirmed. And political fights can force members to continue serving in the absence of a replacement. In fact, two of the remaining members as well as the most recently retired one were confirmed during the second Bush administration.
As of writing, the President has nominated Allen Dickerson, director of the Free Speech Institute, to fill the most recent vacancy. However, it’s unlikely that any confirmation will take place prior to the election, given the 2 previous vacancies have gone unfulfilled since 2017 and 2018, respectively. Also, there’s the small matter of the Trump campaign having just been accused of campaign finance fraud to the tune of $170 million dollars.
Regardless of the changes in commissioner numbers, the campaign finance laws requiring expenditure and donation reporting remain intact. And Goods Unite Us will continue working to ensure companies remain accountable to consumers and voters.