Washington is gridlocked. But nothing in Washington is as gridlocked as the Federal Election Commission. That includes party planning. This year is the 40th anniversary of the FEC, which was founded in the wake of Watergate. In figuring out how to mark the occasion, officials past and present argued about whether to rent a theater, whether to publish a report, whether to serve bagels or doughnuts, and whether, in fact, the agency even had an anniversary worth noting. “Actually, the FEC isn’t really 40, having been declared unconstitutional not once but twice, first in 1976, and as recently as 1993,” said Don McGahn, who served as a Republican commissioner from 2008 to 2013. “So, having turned 21, it is barely old enough to drink.”
Regulating elections is a pretty partisan business and the FEC is often at loggerheads over how to regulate money in politics. Making matters worse, the FEC, unlike other federal agencies, was structured to be equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, three apiece, and the commissioners often deadlock.
… Planning a party at any government agency can be a challenging task. Even ordering pastries for the event required a consultation with government attorneys, to make sure the plans complied with ethics standards.
The decision about whether to serve bagels or doughnuts revolved around which one was healthier, Ms. Ravel recalled, although she expressed some doubt as to whether there was much difference between them. In the end, the question of the snacks became one shining moment of compromise: Instead of choosing between bagels and doughnuts, they served both.