The Federal Election Commission, tasked with policing what’s expected to be the nation’s most expensive election ever, will drag itself into the New Year perhaps more internally injured than at any point in its 40-year history. It will do so under the leadership of Matthew Petersen, a Republican appointed chairman Thursday in a perfunctory vote by his five commission colleagues. The job switches annually between Republicans and Democrats. But Petersen, a soft-spoken and professorial attorney by trade, says his tenure at the commission’s helm will prove decidedly different than that of Democrat Ann Ravel, the current chairwoman who’s used her office’s meager power — a bully pulpit, mainly — to its maximum. “I’ve learned to take a more low-profile approach,” he told the Center for Public Integrity in an interview earlier this month. “I don’t feel any need to have my face out there any more than it is.”
Low-profile is something Ravel is not. Ravel has toured the country touting what she considers the virtues of remaking the elections commission into the aggressive watchdog it is not.
She has penned op-ed pieces scolding and slamming her Republican colleagues for, in her estimation, failing to enforce election laws.
And when those Republicans balked at writing stricter rules governing certain political activities, Ravel joined with fellow Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub in an unprecedented attempt to force them to act — petitioning her own agency not as appointed government officials, but as private citizens.