Lawyers for the Socialist Workers Party said the party shouldn’t have to show the party faces “serious” threats of harassment and reprisals in order to be exempt from Federal Election Commission disclosure rules. Extensive written comments filed by party lawyers ahead of an April 20 FEC open meeting sought to persuade the commissioners they should extend the party’s unique, decades-old exemption from campaign finance law requirements to disclose donors and vendors. The fringe party’s long history of persecution should be enough for a continued waiver from having to disclose, the comments said, despite arguments that recent incidents have been few and relatively minor.
Federal Election Commission
National: FEC commissioner sends letter to President Trump: Where is your proof of voter fraud? | The Washington Post
A Democratic member of the Federal Election Commission sent a letter to President Trump on Wednesday reiterating her request that he provide evidence for his claim that thousands of people were bused to New Hampshire to vote illegally in the 2016 elections. FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub told Trump in a letter emailed to the White House that the president’s unsubstantiated charge challenges the legitimacy of the election and could be cited by policymakers nationwide as a reason to pursue “unwarranted voter restrictions. Our democracy depends on the American people’s faith in our elections,” Weintraub wrote. “Your voter-fraud allegations run the risk of undermining that faith.”
The Federal Election Commission — an agency of clashing commissioners, seething staffers and key vacancies — may soon face congressmen who wonder: Why’s the agency a basket case? Such a trip under Congress’ microscope could come in the form of a Committee on House Administration oversight hearing, something the FEC hasn’t endured since 2011, when super PACs were still novel and the now-seminal Citizens United v. FEC decision wasn’t yet two years old. A planned oversight hearing in 2014 never materialized. “It’s time,” Committee on House Administration member Barry Loudermilk, a Republican congressman from Georgia, told the Center for Public Integrity. “We should take the opportunity and have a re-evaluation.” An oversight hearing is “both urgent and necessary” and should be conducted “sooner rather than later,” said Jamie Fleet, a spokesman for Rep. Robert Brady, the committee’s ranking Democrat.
National: Democratic Member Quits Federal Election Commission, Setting Up Political Fight | The New York Times
A Democrat on the Federal Election Commission is quitting her term early because of the gridlock that has gripped the panel, offering President Trump an unexpected chance to shape political spending rules. The commissioner, Ann M. Ravel, said during an interview that she would send Mr. Trump her letter of resignation this week. She pointed to a series of deadlocked votes between the panel’s three Democrats and three Republicans that she said left her little hope the group would ever be able to rein in campaign finance abuses. “The ability of the commission to perform its role has deteriorated significantly,” said Ms. Ravel, who has sparred bitterly with the Republican election commissioners during her three years on the panel. She added, “I think I can be more effective on the outside.” Her departure will probably set off an intense political fight over how a new commissioner should be picked. By tradition, Senate Democrats would be allowed to select the replacement, but, by law, the choice belongs to the president, and Mr. Trump has shown little interest in Washington customs.
National: With morale in tatters, Federal Election Commission eyes changes | Center for Public Integrity
Federal Election Commission leaders — dogged by abysmal staff morale and a top manager improperly obtaining employees’ confidential critiques — are considering changes to how the agency operates in a bid to restore staff trust. Chief among them: the creation of a new “ombudsman” office dedicated to investigating and resolving staff complaints and internal conflicts, according to an internal proposal written by the agency’s chairman and obtained by the Center for Public Integrity. As written, the proposal further calls for formal, anonymous reviews of agency managers by subordinates, as well as better manager training.
National: Beleaguered Federal Election Commission enters 2017 as marginalized as ever | Public Radio International
Donald Trump panned “pay-to-play” politics, blasted “rigged” elections and vowed to “drain the swamp” that is Washington, D.C. But Trump has so far forsaken the very government agency Congress created after Watergate to work as the nation’s campaign season Roto-Rooter. The Federal Election Commission’s six commissioners, including the agency’s three Republicans, say neither Trump nor his transition team has contacted them. Trump, meanwhile, appointed Don McGahn, a former FEC chairman and preeminent enemy of campaign finance regulations, as his top White House lawyer. Representatives for the Trump transition declined to answer questions from the Center for Public Integrity about the FEC. The developments together are evidence that the FEC — once a reasonably robust and bipartisan judge of political misdeeds — heads into 2017 even more marginalized than ever before by the very politicians it’s supposed to advise and police.
National: Ruling against the Federal Election Commission is a win for political money transparency | Facing South
A good-government group has won its case against the Federal Election Commission for negligence in enforcing campaign finance laws against two conservative political groups that have ties to billionaire industrialists and conservative juggernauts Charles and David Koch and that were active in several Southern states. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the FEC in 2012 against Americans for Job Security and the American Action Network for failing to register as political committees while financing $27.6 million worth of political ads during the 2010 elections. AJS is an anti-union 501(c)6 nonprofit trade association based in Virginia, while AAN is a 501(c)4 “social welfare” nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. After the FEC dismissed the suit, CREW sued the regulatory body itself.
The Federal Election Commission has a few questions for God, Satan, and the Ghost of Ronald Reagan, all of whom have filed paperwork to run for office this election cycle. This implausible scenario is part of a policy aimed at dealing with an influx of suspicious-sounding presidential candidate names. It’s relatively easy to register as a presidential candidate, and during the 2016 election plenty of people seem to be taking advantage of that. As a result, the federal agency is now asking whoever filed paperwork to run for president under the names “God,” “Satan,” and “Ronald Reagan’s Ghost” to prove they actually exist. “It has come to the attention of the Federal Election Commission that you may have failed to include an accurate candidate name,” a letter sent by the commission to “H. Majesty Satan Lord of Underworld Prince of Darkness!” in College Station, Texas dated August 31, 2016 reads. “The Commission requires the filing to be true, correct and complete,” the letter warns, adding that “knowingly and willfully making any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation to a federal government agency, including the Federal Election Commission, is punishable.”
Sorry, Deez Nuts, Left Shark and Toy Testicles. The folks over at the Federal Election Commission are not amused by your claims to be running for the presidency, and this week they announced plans to crack down on the wave of fake candidates filing paperwork with the agency. “The Commission has authorized staff to send verification letters to filers listing fictional characters, obscene language, sexual references, celebrities (where there is no indication that the named celebrity submitted the filing), animals or similarly implausible entries as the name or contact information of the candidate or committee,” according to the FEC’s news release outlining its formal procedure. The letters will warn pranksters that there are potential penalties for making false filings with a federal agency. If they don’t respond to the FEC’s letter in 30 days, their names will be yanked from the public database on the FEC’s website, stripping them of one path to notoriety.
Editorials: Facebook may soon have more power over elections than the FEC. Are we ready? | Nathaniel Persily /The Washington Post
For political advertising, like so much else, the digital revolution inspires both utopian and apocalyptic predictions. And as in many other arenas where Internet-based “disruption” looms, the optimists and pessimists both have a point. For those of us who study campaign and election regulation, however, new technology poses a serious challenge to the existing ways of thinking about and addressing the campaign finance problem. Government regulation becomes increasingly difficult once communication moves online, thus, large Internet platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter will become the primary regulators of political campaigns. They need to recognize their new role and use their power responsibly. One error that observers often make in thinking about the evolution of campaign communication is to view the technological shift as one from television to the Internet. To be sure, what we are seeing is a shift in the “devices” used to connect with audiences — adding computers, tablets, gaming consoles and (in particular) smartphones to televisions as the pathways for communication. But television itself is changing and becoming less distinct from those other devices, as younger viewers in particular move from linear watching to on-demand programming of various types. (That said, Americans continue to watch, on average, more than four hours of live TV per day!)