The nation’s enforcer of election laws was largely paralyzed during the 2012 election, despite a Supreme Court ruling that left several key money-in-politics issues open to interpretation. With five of six Federal Election Commission members working on expired terms (one since 2007), President Barack Obama had an opportunity to remake the agency with members more inclined to enforce campaign finance rules, say reformers. But that hasn’t happened. The situation hasn’t done much for the agency’s reputation.
“The Federal Election Commission is itself a campaign-finance scandal,” said longtime FEC critic and campaign finance reformer Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of Democracy 21.
“None of the players in the political arena had any reason to believe that the campaign finance laws would be enforced,” Wertheimer said. “The White House needs to address it or else must bear responsibility for this campaign-finance scandal continuing.”
As both Obama and GOP rival Mitt Romney raised hundreds of millions of dollars for their campaigns, long-time allies of each man launched supposedly independent super PACs that served as attack dogs during the long slog of the election.
Former White House aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney created the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action, while former Romney campaign advisers Carl Forti, Charles Spies and Larry McCarthy created the Restore Our Future super PAC to boost the former Massachusetts governor’s candidacy.
Both groups raised tens of millions of dollars, often from donors who also gave the legal maximum to the campaign committee of their preferred presidential candidate. Top campaign officials even appeared at fundraising events for the super PACs, including Romney himself.