The three Republican and three Democratic appointees of the Federal Election Commission had reached yet another deadlock: They would issue no advisory opinion on whether the Conservative Action Fund could accept contributions of Bitcoin, the online currency created to be untraceable. But a ruling of sorts emerged nonetheless in the hearing, held late last year, when one of the Republican commissioners, Lee E. Goodman, suggested that the group could essentially do as it pleased. The fund “has a clear statutory right to give and receive in-kind contributions regardless of what we say here today,” Mr. Goodman said. The case was just one of the more than 200 times in the past six years that the commission has split votes, reflecting a deep ideological divide over how aggressively to regulate money in politics that mirrors the partisan gridlock in Congress. But instead of paralyzing the commission, the 3-to-3 votes have created a rapidly expanding universe of unofficial law, where Republican commissioners have loosened restrictions on candidates and outside groups simply by signaling what standards they are willing to enforce.
Ann M. Ravel, a Democrat who joined the F.E.C. last year, stands on the other side of the divided commission. Credit Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press
Campaign lawyers of both parties say the deadlocks have profoundly, if informally, affected the rules governing campaigns, particularly on questions involving whether political nonprofit groups must disclose their finances and the threshold for starting an investigation.
The splits are consistent enough in spelling out the likely direction of enforcement, they say, that they now advise clients that a 3-to-3 split comes close to official commission policy.
Full Article: Election Panel Enacts Policies by Not Acting – NYTimes.com.