Caroline Hunter and Ellen Weintraub share a relationship that’s sometimes icy, occasionally testy and rarely dull. Their public disagreements as Federal Election Commission commissioners have spanned a decade across myriad matters material and trivial — political ads, memory skills, breakfast food. But the dynastic duo, who on Thursday became FEC chairwoman and vice chairwoman for 2018 — both have served years in these capacities before — are forging a detente. Hunter, a Republican, recently sought out Weintraub, a Democrat, to privately discuss FEC issues, from improving agency efficiency to more tightly regulating internet-based political communications, on which they might actually agree. In separate interviews, both commissioners said they’re focusing not on their differences, but commonalities — a marked change of tone from two strong personalities who’ve gone stretches without speaking to one another.
At issue is whether their thaw is ultimately for naught. The six-member commission, which regulates and enforces the nation’s campaign finance laws, could face a de facto shutdown just as 2018 congressional midterm elections heat up.
Absent speedy intervention by President Donald Trump and the U.S. Senate, the FEC could soon lose at least two commissioners, and with them, the requirement that four commissioners be present to conduct high-level business such as making rules, levying fines, approving audits and offering political committees official guidance.