By petitioning their own agency for a rulemaking, Commissioners Weintraub and Ravel have found a novel way to charge their colleagues with fecklessness. Call it a populist gesture: they are stepping out of their roles as administrators and issuing their appeal from the outside, as members of the general public. They may have done all they could or intended to do with this Petition, which was to publicize their grievances. Or they may have sought to add to public understanding of the grounds of this grievance-to enlighten and inform, and not only turn up the volume of their complaint. A first point—minor but worth considering– is whether this agency needs another quirky procedural controversy. What does it mean for two Commissioners, one of whom is agency Chair, to dispense with their formal roles and petition as citizens, filing a petition on plain paper without their titles and just the Commission’s street address? Will they recuse themselves from voting on the petition as Commissioners? Will they testify before themselves?
One explanation provided to USA Today is that it will allow for a hearing at which the general public will be heard. But such a hearing has been held, and the Chair could have unilaterally arranged for another, as she did recently in convening a forum on the role of women in politics.
The answer to this may be no more than: it does not matter, because the Petition serves only to make a point. A sympathetic observer would call it a cri de coeur; one less sympathetic might see it as a PR maneuver. What might unite the two sides is merely their agreement, for entirely different reasons, that the Commission is not in good working order. The risk of the petition initiative is that rather than move the discussion to a better place (hard as that is), it sends a dreary message about the state of the agency.
Full Article: “Desperate” at the FEC –.