The rise of billionaire-driven super PACs that seem to take a loose view of the few rules they’re asked to follow has even late-night comics asking: Who’s in charge here? Meet the Federal Election Commission, the agency tasked with enforcing campaign finance law. This six-person panel has long been slow-moving and frequently divided, but this year its members have taken their reputation to new heights just as money emerges as the biggest legal issue of the season. The FEC routinely stalemates along party lines on the biggest questions it faces, such as whether members of Congress can appear in ads aired by a super PAC affiliated with Karl Rove or whether to write new rules requiring political advertisers to disclose more information — effectively leaving campaigns and super PACs to decide for themselves. When they do manage to reach bipartisan agreement, it’s on relatively small-bore questions.
Case in point: One of the last unanimous agreements from the commissions was that, yes, the Wawa convenience store chain can ask certain store managers to kick in money to the company political action committee. And there’s little reason to think they will take much initiative before Election Day, leaving campaigns and super PACs to test the boundaries of the new campaign finance world without risking much trouble from the FEC.
Ellen Weintraub, vice chairwoman of the panel, said she used to think the agency got a bad rap and that claims FEC is dysfunctional were unfounded, but she’s changed her mind. “I used to think that was true, because the claim has been made about the agency practically since it came into existence,” she said. “My personal experience, having been here for a while, is that it didn’t used to be as dysfunctional as people said it was, but now it actually is, I’m sad to say.” And she sometimes agrees with the FEC’s critics. “I really do agree with them that we ought to be doing more,” Weintraub said. “I have tried to get us to explore some issues such as disclosure in the wake of Citizens United, and have been completely unsuccessful. I tried hard; I tried repeatedly, but people have strongly held views over here.”
Full Article: FEC’s bad rap getting worse – Robin Bravender – POLITICO.com.