In op-eds and interviews, FEC Chair Ravel has chosen a particular course for her one-year term as the agency’s leader. She is making use of the pulpit she now commands to express her view that the law is going unenforced. It is question of Republican intransigence, she argues, and the consequences are “destructive to the political process.” Commissioner Weintraub has advanced the same position. Republicans inside and outside the FEC have strenuously objected to this conclusion and the manner in which she has expressed it. And they have added to their complaint the allegation that, in a “listening tour” on dark money and a forum organized on the role of women in politics, the Chair has acted outside her mandate and invited the appearance of partisan bias.
This is all very nasty and has led to collective “acting out,” as in the recent dispute over whether to have bagels or donuts at a 40th anniversary event.
Two different claims are getting thrown together in this clash, and separating them out may help focus on what ought to matter here. One is the contention that the Chair is taking the agency, maybe for political purposes, beyond its proper mandate, and the other is the recurring charge that only one side of the Commission is serious about “enforcing” the law.
This seems the less weighty of the critiques and may be missing a more central question about Commissioner Ravel’s choices as agency Chair.