Ann Ravel

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Editorials: Ann Ravel gets points for trying to force the Federal Election Commission into action | The Sacramento Bee

For a political reformer, Ann Ravel had what might have been the job of a lifetime: chair of the Federal Election Commission. But as Ravel ends her year as chairwoman, the commission is much as it was upon her arrival: paralyzed by partisanship. It’s not for her lack of effort. Ravel tried logic, argument, persuasion, and, exasperated, she tried to embarrass fellow commissioners. Her most important accomplishment is that she told the story of the broken commission to anyone who would listen, not just the insiders who pay attention to such matters. On “The Daily Show,” she agreed with with the comedic interviewer’s assessment that the commission is about as functional as men’s nipples. Over the top, perhaps, but no other commission chair has appeared on such a show. It turns out that at least three of six of commissioners were beyond embarrassment.

Full Article: Ann Ravel gets points for trying to force the Federal Election Commission into action | The Sacramento Bee.

National: Corporations are people. But are FEC commissioners people too? | The Washington Post

The agency instructed to treat corporations as people – at least when it comes to their right to spend money on political speech – isn’t sure if its own commissioners are. During a fraught exchange at Thursday’s Federal Election Commission monthly meeting, a Republican commissioner said none of the six panel members should be counted as a “person” when it comes to petitioning their own agency. This led to a strange back and forth between Matthew Petersen, a Republican, and Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, over her personhood. “First of all, let me say I cannot believe that you are actually going to take the position that I am not a person…a corporation is a person, but I’m not a person?” Weintraub fired back. “That’s how bad it has gotten. My colleagues will not admit that I am a person. That’s really striking.”

Full Article: Corporations are people. But are FEC commissioners people too? - The Washington Post.

National: Two FEC officials implore agency to curb 2016 election abuse | USA Today

Two Democratic members of the Federal Election Commission, who say they are frustrated by the agency’s failure to rein in campaign-finance abuses ahead of the 2016 presidential race, are making what amounts to a drastic move Monday in the staid world of federal election law. Commissioners Ann Ravel, who is the agency’s chairwoman, and Ellen Weintraub are filing a formal petition, urging their own agency to write rules to clamp down on unfettered political spending and unmask the anonymous money flooding U.S. elections.

Full Article: Exclusive: Two FEC officials implore agency to curb 2016 election abuse.

National: The FEC’s ‘non-partisan’ whistleblower | Politico

Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ann Ravel, an outspoken advocate of tougher campaign finance laws who has been criticized as too partisan by some Republicans, says she’s open to a GOP idea of increasing campaign contribution limits as a way to stem the flow of money to super PACs and other outside groups. “I wouldn’t object to the raising of contribution limits,” the Democratic appointee told POLITICO in an interview. “But I wouldn’t want to totally eliminate contribution limits because what would worry me about that is that the candidates would then become like the super PACs, and it would drown out small donors.”

Full Article: The FEC's 'non-partisan' whistleblower - Tarini Parti - POLITICO.

National: Get ready for a lot more ‘dark money’ in politics | The Washington Post

Over the weekend, the New York Times published a sobering interview with the head of the Federal Election Commission, who confirmed that she had largely given up on the agency playing a meaningful role in restraining fundraising and spending abuses in the 2016 campaign. The commissioners are deadlocked, FEC chair Ann Ravel said, because Republican members of the commission think the FEC should exercise less robust oversight, meaning the agency has become “worse than dysfunctional” at a time when outside money is poised to play an even larger role than it did in the last two cycles.

Full Article: Get ready for a lot more ‘dark money’ in politics - The Washington Post.

Editorials: Open Mic Disaster: The FEC held a hearing that revealed almost everything that’s wrong with American democracy. | Alec McGillis/Slate

Woe, to be the Federal Election Commission in the age of the Koch brothers. The agency charged with safeguarding the integrity of American democracy has, in recent years, been hit again and again by other branches of the federal government further flooding the political system with money from a small coterie of ultrawealthy donors. There was the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling in 2010, which made it possible for corporations, unions, and nonprofit groups to spend directly on elections. There was the McCutcheon v. FEC ruling last year, which, while keeping in place caps on how much an individual could give directly to a candidate or political committee, eliminated the aggregate limits on how much he could give combined. And just two months ago, Congress slipped into the big must-pass spending bill a further expansion of the sums a wealthy donor could give to party committees. The FEC hasn’t exactly helped matters, either. In the final years of George W. Bush’s administration, in 2007, it issued a rule that greatly weakened the requirements for nonprofit groups airing political “issue ads” to disclose their donors. More recently, the agency, despite the best efforts of Chairwoman Ann Ravel, a Democrat, has been conspicuously weak in enforcing its remaining rules on donor disclosure, laundered campaign contributions, and improper coordination between outside groups and candidates—the result of a worse-than-ever partisan deadlock between its three Democratic appointees and its three Republican ones, who have repeatedly resisted serious enforcement actions. All in all, the agency is looking about as effective at holding the line as a middle-school hall monitor at a Roman bacchanal.

Full Article: FEC hearing on campaign finance rules: The agency appears powerless to do its job..

Voting Blogs: FEC Deadlocks and the Role of the Courts | More Soft Money Hard Law

Critics of campaign finance enforcement, or the lack of it, continue to be infuriated by the FEC’s record of deadlocks in major cases, and they are further troubled by the obstacles to judicial review.  When complainants stymied by deadlock appeal to the courts, they must still overcome the “deference” generally granted to the agency’s expertise, except where the law is clear or the agency is acting arbitrarily.  In these cases, the courts review the agency’s action by examining the stated position of the Commissioners voting against enforcement.  This is the so-called “controlling group” of Commissioners—the ones whose refusal to authorize enforcement controlled the outcome. Two FEC Commissioners, Ann Ravel and Ellen Weintraub, now argue that this is all wrong, and have called for the courts to reconsider the process by which deadlock decisions are reviewed. They want an end to the “controlling group” analysis; the courts, the Commissioners contend, should review deadlocks on a de novo basis. So if the FEC dismisses a complaint because the Commissioners cannot agree on what sort of an organization constitutes a regulated “political committee,” the court would take it from there—disregarding the Commissioners’ disagreement and proceeding to judge the issue from scratch.

Full Article: FEC Deadlocks and the Role of the Courts -.

National: Few Tricks, Some Treats as Two New FEC Commissioners Start Work on Halloween | In the Arena

For the first time since January, the Federal Election Commission held a meeting at which a majority of six Commissioners agreed on an advisory opinion.  At its public meeting today, the Commission welcomed Lee Goodman and Ann Ravel to its ranks.  Commissioner Goodman came from a private practice in which he represented Republican candidates and officeholders, among other clients.  As the chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, Commissioner Ravel made waves last week with the announcement of a million-dollar settlement with two conservative nonprofits that failed to disclose the sources of funds spent on state ballot initiative campaigns. In opening statements, the two new Commissioners found common ground on two subjects: they both expressed appreciation of the FEC’s staff, and a desire to achieve consensus on issues facing the agency.  Commissioner Goodman added, though, that the FEC is a “complicated agency” where First Amendment and regulatory concerns must be carefully balanced.

Full Article: Few Tricks, Some Treats as Two New FEC Commissioners Start Work on Halloween | In the Arena: Law and Politics Update.

California: Group Linked to Kochs Admits to Campaign Finance Violations | New York Times

A secretive nonprofit group with ties to the billionaire conservative businessmen Charles and David Koch admitted to improperly failing to disclose more than $15 million in contributions it funneled into state referendum battles in California, state officials there announced Thursday. The group, the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights, is one of the largest political nonprofits in the country, serving as a conduit for tens of millions of dollars in political spending, much of it raised by the Kochs and their political operation and spent by other nonprofits active in the 2010 and 2012 elections. The settlement, announced by Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California and the Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforce California’s campaign finance laws, includes one of the largest penalties ever assessed on a political group for failing to disclose donations. The center and another Arizona group involved in the transactions, Americans for Responsible Leadership, will pay a $1 million fine, while two California groups must turn over $15 million in contributions they received.

Full Article: Group Linked to Kochs Admits to Campaign Finance Violations - NYTimes.com.

National: Senate confirms Obama’s FEC nominees | Politico.com

The Senate on Monday confirmed President Barack Obama’s two nominees to the Federal Election Commission, giving the panel its first new members since the George W. Bush administration. Democrat Ann Ravel and Republican Lee Goodman were approved by unanimous consent in a brief voice vote on the Senate floor. The commission — a six-member panel that regulates political spending on campaigns and elections — has been operating with just five commissioners since the spring when chairwoman Cynthia Bauerly departed for the private sector. Last week, Bauerly’s successor as chair Donald McGahn also left the commission to return to practicing law at Patton Boggs.

Full Article: Senate confirms Obama's FEC nominees - POLITICO.com.

California: New rules aim for transparency in online campaign material | Los Angeles Times

Under new rules approved Thursday, the state hopes to help Californians determine whether political material they read online is a writer’s own opinion or propaganda paid for by a campaign. Campaigns will now have to report when they pay people to post praise or criticism of candidates and ballot measures on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other websites. “The public is entitled to know who is paying for campaigns and campaign opinions,” so voters can better evaluate what they see on blogs and elsewhere online, said Ann Ravel, who chairs the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Open-government groups endorsed the new rules, which govern “favorable or unfavorable” content — although much of the time that information may come weeks or even months after publication. Bloggers and some others say the rules infringe on free speech. The regulations require disclosure by campaigns that pay someone $500 or more to post positive or negative content on Internet sites not run by the campaigns. In periodic spending reports required by the state, the campaigns would have to identify who was paid, how much and to which website or URL the posting was made.

Full Article: New California rules aim for transparency in online campaign material - latimes.com.

National: FEC Nominees Win Rules Committee Endorsement | The Center for Public Integrity

President Barack Obama’s two nominees to the Federal Election Commission — an agency rife with ideological discord and often gridlocked on key issues before it — today won unanimous approval from the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. The nominations of Republican Lee E. Goodman and Democrat Ann Ravel now move to the full Senate, which must confirm Goodman and Ravel before they’re appointed to the FEC. The Rules Committee had originally scheduled a nomination vote for Monday but delayed it because it failed to reach a quorum. “The Commission is designed to play a critical role in our campaign finance system,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the Rules Committee chairman, said in a statement. “It is my hope that, once confirmed, Mr. Goodman and Ms. Ravel will work hard to restore the agency to a fully functioning independent federal watchdog for the nation’s campaign finance laws.”

Full Article: FEC Nominees Win Rules Committee Endorsement | The Center for Public Integrity.

National: Senate committee delays vote on FEC nominees | Center for Public Integrity

President Barack Obama’s two nominees to the Federal Election Commission must wait a little longer for the Senate Rules and Administration Committee to vote on their nominations. Only Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., appeared at this morning’s scheduled meeting, announcing that the committee had failed to reach a quorum, and therefore, couldn’t conduct a vote. But Schumer, the committee’s chairman, added during brief remarks that a vote on the FEC nominees — Democrat Ann Ravel and Republican Lee Goodman — could come as “early as tomorrow.” Rules Committee staff explained that senators could conduct a vote on Goodman and Ravel without scheduling another formal meeting, instead gathering together during a break in action when the full Senate meets in session. The Rules Committee’s recommendation would be forwarded to the full Senate, which would conduct a final appointment vote.

Full Article: Senate committee delays vote on FEC nominees | Center for Public Integrity.

National: Senate committee to soon vote on FEC nominees | The Center for Public Integrity

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee will soon schedule an early September vote on two Federal Election Commission nominees, two sources close to the nomination process tell the Center for Public Integrity. Such a vote means the full Senate could consider — and potentially approve — the nominations of Republican Lee E. Goodman, an attorney at law firm LeClairRyan, and Democrat Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, within weeks. As of Friday evening, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, of which Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is chairman, had not published an official notice of the vote.

Full Article: Senate committee to soon vote on FEC nominees | The Center for Public Integrity.

National: FEC Democrats Try to Run Clock Out on GOP Attempt To End Cooperation With Justice | Main Justice

The Federal Election Commission again postponed its scheduled discussion of a controversial proposal to make it more difficult for the commission to cooperate with the Department of Justice. But not before engaging in a heated discussion about whether and when the matter will be addressed. Explaining her “prerogative to hold the matter over,” Weintraub said that McGahn did not submit his proposed changes to the manual until 10 p.m. on June 9, which did not leave her or then-general counsel Anthony Herman enough time to review the changes. She said she didn’t hold the discussion on June 27 after receiving a request to postpone it the night before from Republican Commissioner Caroline C. Hunter and her GOP colleagues.The commission originally intended to take up the proposal during its public meeting on June 13. But commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub held over discussion and did so again when the commission members gathered on June 27, July 9 and July 22.

Full Article: FEC Democrats Try to Run Clock Out on GOP Attempt To End Cooperation With Justice | Main Justice

National: GOP lawmaker chides FEC for two-year delay in creating enforcement manual | Washington Post

The House Administration committee’s top Republican last week scolded the Federal Election Commission for failing to approve an enforcement manual two years after lawmakers asked the panel to complete the task. “When a federal agency keeps its enforcement policies and procedures secret or makes them difficult to understand, it increases the opportunity for abuse by its employees — abuse that has very real consequences for the Americans subject to its power,” Committee Chairman Candice Miller (Mich.) said in a statement on Friday. In a letter to Miller on Thursday, FEC Chairman Ellen Weintraub raised concerns about dealing with enforcement guidelines while the Senate is considering two new nominees for the commission.

Full Article: GOP lawmaker chides FEC for two-year delay in creating enforcement manual.

National: Two FEC Nominees Receive Senate Hearing With Little Partisan Rancor | Huffington Post

Two nominees to the Federal Election Commission testified before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee on Wednesday in a short hearing that featured legalistic euphemisms and the invocation of “balls and strikes,” but little partisan rancor. Ann Ravel, a Democrat and chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, and Lee Goodman, a Republican election lawyer, both assured the committee that, if confirmed, they would enforce election and campaign finance laws on the books and seek to improve transparency by updating the FEC’s website. “I’m committed to enforcement of the act,” Goodman said. “I will not call balls and strikes differently for each party.” Ravel, noting the democratic principles her parents had instilled in her, said, “An important aspect of this job is to ensure that people participate in politics.”

Full Article: Two FEC Nominees Receive Senate Hearing With Little Partisan Rancor.

National: Federal Election Commission nominations moving forward | The Center for Public Integrity

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee will on July 24 conduct a confirmation hearing on President Barack Obama’s two new nominees to the Federal Election Commission, three government officials familiar with the proceedings tell the Center for Public Integrity. The hearing, if conducted as planned, means the nominations could move forward to the full Senate before the body recesses on August 2 for a five-week summer break. Committee members may vote to approve or reject the nominees —  Lee E. Goodman, an attorney at law firm LeClairRyan, and Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission — or forward the nominations to the full Senate without recommendation. Obama nominated Ravel and Goodman on June 21, as the Center previously reported.

Full Article: FEC nominations moving forward | The Center for Public Integrity.

National: Obama to nominate Democratic, Republican members to Federal Election Commission | The Washington Post

President Barack Obama intends to nominate two lawyers with government experience to become commissioners on the Federal Election Commission, the agency that oversees and enforces campaign finance laws. One of the nominees would fill a Democratic vacancy on the commission and the other would replace the Republican vice chairman, the White House said. Obama’s nominee to replace Republican Donald F. McGahn is Lee Goodman, who served as a top aide to former Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore of Virginia. Obama’s Democratic nominee is Ann Ravel, the chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission. She would fill the seat vacated earlier this year by Cynthia Bauerly. If confirmed by the Senate, the FEC would have all of its six commissioners — three Democrats and three Republicans. The even partisan split on the FEC has at times contributed to gridlock on the commission with votes breaking along party lines.
Full Article: Obama to nominate Democratic, Republican members to Federal Election Commission - The Washington Post.