The agency instructed to treat corporations as people – at least when it comes to their right to spend money on political speech – isn’t sure if its own commissioners are. During a fraught exchange at Thursday’s Federal Election Commission monthly meeting, a Republican commissioner said none of the six panel members should be counted as a “person” when it comes to petitioning their own agency. This led to a strange back and forth between Matthew Petersen, a Republican, and Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, over her personhood. “First of all, let me say I cannot believe that you are actually going to take the position that I am not a person…a corporation is a person, but I’m not a person?” Weintraub fired back. “That’s how bad it has gotten. My colleagues will not admit that I am a person. That’s really striking.”
Caroline Hunter, another Republican, sided with Petersen, saying there was “a lot of common sense” in determining that commissioners weren’t persons. “My children are going to be really disappointed,” Weintraub deadpanned. “I think you’re not an alien, at least not today,” Hunter joked (we think…).
This was all sparked by a public effort by Weintraub and Ann Ravel, the FEC’s chairwoman, to file an unprecedented formal petition with the agency to issue new rules before the 2016 election for more disclosure of donations and to strengthen the ban on coordination between super PACs and campaign.
Such petitions, the Republicans on the panel argued, are meant to give citizens a voice, not for commissioners to make a point.