In light of the recent failure of gun control legislation despite widespread public support for change, most Americans would be hard-pressed to name a government entity more dysfunctional than Congress. But that is only because most people have never heard of the Federal Election Commission, which is more out of touch with common sentiment than the House and Senate combined. Voters have become cynical about elected leaders, believing many are bought and paid for. While decrying this public perception, politicians on both sides of the aisle have little interest in taking any concrete action to improve the situation.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) calls the FEC the “little agency that can’t”; perhaps more aptly, it is the party stalwarts who won’t. Why? Since 2008, the commission has been crippled by partisan gridlock. In particular, the three Republican commissioners — Caroline Hunter, Donald McGahn and Matthew Petersen — openly defy their statutory obligations and regularly spurn the enforcement recommendations of the FEC general counsel.
McGahn is particularly aggressive in politicizing the agency, seemingly attempting to render it impotent. He has said the job of an FEC commissioner is to make sure his political party’s interests “are taken care of” and has boasted, “I’m not enforcing the law as Congress passed it. … I plead guilty as charged.” Yet enforcement of our campaign finance laws is critical to instilling confidence in the integrity of public officials and federal elections.