The Federal Election Commission delayed a vote on a plan to provide free cybersecurity assistance for campaigns, with the panel’s chairwoman voicing concerns it could the open the door to corporate money in campaigns. Ellen Weintraub said she supported the goal of cybersecurity but questioned whether the proposal could grant broad leeway for providing aid to campaigns outside the limits and restrictions of campaign finance law, including a longstanding ban on corporate contributions to candidates. “We do not want to inadvertently blow a hole in the corporate contribution ban,” the Democratic chairwoman said at a commission meeting today. The nonprofit watchdog Campaign Legal Center, which had voiced similar concern about the initial proposal, has signed off on a compromise that includes language emphasizing the aid is tied to the imminent threat of illegal foreign interference in elections. The commission may take up the issue again at its scheduled April 25 meeting.Full Article: Cybersecurity Campaign Aid Delayed by Corporate Money Fears.
Federal Election Commission
National: Federal Election Commission could give lawmakers new tools against hacking | The Washington Post
The Federal Election Commission will vote today on whether lawmakers can use leftover campaign cash to secure their personal tech devices and email accounts against hackers. The proposal, from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), comes amid rising concern that Kremlin-linked hackers are targeting the personal email accounts and other data of lawmakers and their office and campaign staffs. Hacked information from those personal accounts could be used for blackmail or as a jumping-off point to break into email accounts for campaigns, congressional offices or even federal agencies. More importantly, hackers could strategically release hacked information to upend a political campaign, as Russia did with hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee in 2016, or to sway a political or policy debate.Full Article: The Cybersecurity 202: Election commission could give lawmakers new tools against hacking - The Washington Post.
As tech companies and government agencies prepare to defend against possible Russian interference in the midterm elections, the Federal Election Commission has a different response: too soon. The four commissioners on Thursday deadlocked, again, on proposals to consider new rules, for example, for foreign-influenced U.S. corporations and for politically active entities that don’t disclose their donors. “We have reason to think there are foreign actors who are looking for every single avenue to try and influence our elections,” said Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat who offered two proposals for new regulations. Both proposals failed on partisan 2-2 votes.Full Article: Federal Election Commission Can't Decide If Russian Interference Violated Law : NPR.
Lee Goodman, a Republican appointee to the Federal Election Commission, announced his resignation Wednesday, leaving the deeply divided panel with a bare quorum to conduct business. Goodman, who has pushed for less regulation of money in politics during his four years on the panel, will rejoin the Washington-based law firm Wiley Rein, which specializes in election law and government ethics. His last day at the FEC will be Feb. 16. With Goodman’s departure, the FEC has a bare-minimum quorum of four members — two Republicans, one Democrat and one independent — whose unanimous votes are now required to take official action.Full Article: FEC commissioner’s departure leaves panel with bare-minimum quorum - The Washington Post.
National: New hope, new problem: Will Federal Election Commission shut down? | Center for Public Integrity
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.Full Article: New hope, new problem: Will Federal Election Commission shut down? | Center for Public Integrity.
National: Campaign watchdogs cite ‘significant concerns’ if Texas lawyer Trey Trainor gets FEC post | Dallas Morning News
Campaign watchdog groups blasted Austin lawyer Trey Trainor on Wednesday, warning senators that his ties to the White House and views on campaign finance should raise “significant concerns” should he win a spot on the Federal Election Commission. Ten groups wrote a letter to senators expressing their concerns, though they stopped short of urging the Senate to reject the nomination. “Americans expect and deserve an FEC that does not allow special interest to run roughshod over our campaign finance laws, and the Senate must take great care to make sure Trey Trainor is not just another fox to guard the henhouse,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause. “Trainor has exhibited an open contempt for many of the campaign finance laws he would be charged with enforcing at the FEC which is deeply troubling at a time when the agency is mired in dysfunction, unable or unwilling to enforce the laws passed by Congress.”Full Article: Campaign watchdogs cite 'significant concerns' if Texas lawyer Trey Trainor gets FEC post | Politics | Dallas News.
In yet another case of the cosmic satire in which we live hitting its mark a little too hard on the nose, the Trump administration last week nominated Texas lawyer Trey Trainor to a seat on the Federal Election Commission, an agency that’s supposed to enforce and interpret campaign finance laws. Trainor is notable mainly for his general opposition to campaign finance laws, so his nomination makes sense, in that most of Trump’s appointees so far either hate or are ignorant of the thing they’re expected to oversee. But Trainor’s nomination also provided an opportunity to make note, once again, of the similarities between Texas’ screwed-up politics and the nation’s increasingly screwed-up politics. If you haven’t heard of Trainor, you’re not alone — he’s well-known around the Capitol, but he’s a behind-the-scenes guy. His name rarely pops up in news stories.Full Article: Trump Nominee to FEC Tried to Shred Texas’ Already-Weak Ethics Laws.
When Facebook revealed to investigators that a Kremlin-linked troll farm paid the company $100,000 for divisive political ads during the 2016 election, many saw the news as a bombshell. But in a year of unpredictable leaks, scandals and scoops, this just might be the least surprising news. Almost everybody with a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account saw a political advertisement on the internet last year. The opportunity for a political campaign is obvious. Internet ads give candidates and interest groups the ability to microtarget potential voters more effectively than TV, for far less money. Approximately two-thirds of Americans get at least some of their news from social media, while print newspaper readership is a fraction of what it once was. And yet, policymakers for years have ignored or outright opposed the need to hold the internet advertising industry to the same standards the country has already agreed on for television and radio. Our campaign finance rules are outdated for the internet age, and rules on the books aren’t enforced. Now, with the revelation that Russia, too, sees the political value in America’s online advertising market, the chickens have come home to roost.Full Article: How the FEC Turned a Blind Eye to Foreign Meddling - POLITICO Magazine.
President Donald Trump is nominating Trey Trainor, an Austin lawyer well-known in Texas politics, to serve on the Federal Election Commission. The White House announced Trainor’s appointment late Tuesday night. He must be confirmed by the Senate. Trainor is a longtime attorney specializing in election law, campaign finance and ethics. He has served as the lawyer for the conservative nonprofit Empower Texans, defending it during its long-running battles with the Texas Ethics Commission over whether it should have to disclose its donors. Trainor originally supported U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in the 2016 presidential primary, but once Cruz dropped out, Trainor helped pave the way for Trump’s nomination at the Republican National Convention. Trainor served as general counsel to the RNC platform committee, a job that put him on the front lines of the party’s efforts to quell an anti-Trump uprising on the floor.Full Article: Trump nominates Texas lawyer Trey Trainor for Federal Election Commission | The Texas Tribune.
National: Beyond Russia: 5 Ways to Interfere in U.S. Elections—Without Breaking the Law | The Atlantic
Russia’s apparent interference in the U.S. presidential election is a big story, but it’s part of an even bigger one: the ease with which foreign actors can insert themselves into the democratic process these days, and the difficulty of determining how to minimize that meddling. Witness the disagreement in recent weeks among leaders of the U.S. Federal Election Commission. Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub has urged the regulatory agency to plug the types of “legal or procedural holes” that enabled Russia to pose “an unprecedented threat to the very foundations of our American political community,” while her Republican colleagues have resisted her proposed fixes.Full Article: Beyond Russia: 5 Ways to Interfere in U.S. Elections—Without Breaking the Law - The Atlantic.
Critics of President Donald Trump say his son’s emails about meeting a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton is a “smoking gun.”But defenders of the president and Donald Trump Jr. said the meeting, which took place last year as the race between Trump and Clinton was gearing up, amounted to “nothing” and was being overblown by the media.Among those whose job is to decide which side is right is the Federal Election Commission. The FEC is set to again consider in an open meeting July 13 what can be done to protect U.S. elections from interference by Russia and other foreign powers. The FEC is not expected, however, to directly address the newly revealed Trump meeting or other specific cases. The commission already had more than a dozen pending cases about foreign influence in last year’s elections when the news broke about Donald Trump Jr.’s meting with the Russian, leading inevitably to even more new enforcement complaints. The commission, however is as deeply divided along partisan lines as is the rest of America and has yet to signal what, if anything, it will do about these matters.Full Article: Trump Jr.'s Emails Gain Attention as FEC Eyes Foreign Influence Issue | Bloomberg BNA.
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.Full Article: FEC Mulls How Much Harassment Is Enough for Disclosure Exemption | Bloomberg BNA.
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.”Full Article: FEC commissioner sends letter to President Trump: Where is your proof of voter fraud? - The Washington Post.
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.Full Article: FEC earning congressional attention — for the wrong reasons | Center for Public Integrity.
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.Full Article: Democratic Member Quits Election Commission, Setting Up Political Fight - The New York Times.
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.Full Article: With morale in tatters, Federal Election Commission eyes changes.
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.Full Article: Beleaguered Federal Election Commission enters 2017 as marginalized as ever | Public Radio International.
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.Full Article: Ruling against the Federal Election Commission is a win for political money transparency | Facing South.
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.”Full Article: FEC Asks God and Satan to Prove They Exist - The Atlantic.
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.Full Article: Federal Election Commission cracks down on Deez Nuts, other fake candidates.