Responding to the threat of a congressional subpoena, the Federal Election Commission this afternoon released reams of previously secret documents that detail how it enforces election law. It appears to end — for the moment — a months-long row between the House Administration Committee and election commissioners over how transparent the commission is and should be. The documents made public today include the commission’s enforcement and audit manuals and details of the procedures used by the FEC’s Reports Analysis Division.
House Republicans had threatened to subpoena the FEC, which is empowered to investigate and fine political entities for campaign law violations. Several Republican members argued that an agency with the power to penalize U.S. citizens should itself be subject to enhanced public scrutiny. “Until now, and contrary to the agency’s core mission, Americans engaging in the political process have been forced to navigate a labyrinth of election laws without adequate guidance or transparency to the enforcement process,” the House Administration Committee’s Republican members said in a statement.
FEC Chairwoman Caroline Hunter said “the commission is committed to increasing the transparency of agency procedures.” Republican FEC commissioner Don McGahn likewise called the release “a good step,” adding that he’d like to see the commission release other materials, too, such as unpublished memorandums from years past. He also cautioned that some of the material released is obsolete and need to be updated.