The country’s increasingly lawless political system needs a traffic cop to set clear rules and rein in violators who think nothing of breaking the spending limits. That’s supposed to be the job of the Federal Election Commission, but the agency has made a travesty of its mission, encouraging bad behavior rather than stopping it. There are six members of the commission, three from each party, with four votes required to take any significant action. In 1975, the agency’s architects in Congress might have had reason to believe that equal division would encourage nonpartisan thinking. But in the current age of outright hostility between right and left, the commission is unable to get four votes for any issue of importance. As Nicholas Confessore reported last week in The Times, those deadlocks mean more than simple paralysis; Republican commissioners are telling violators that a tie vote actually gives them permission to push past the old limits on spending and disclosure.
The Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission warned Wednesday that his agency colleagues could try to regulate book publishers, during a heated session over a forthcoming book by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan. During the meeting, the FEC declined to definitively spare book publishers from the reach of campaign finance rules. This triggered a clash between Republican and Democratic members, with Chairman Lee Goodman warning that the deadlock could represent a “chill” for constitutional free-press rights. “That is a shame. … We have wounded the free-press clause of the First Amendment,” Goodman told FoxNews.com after the tense meeting. Goodman previously has warned that the commission wants to start regulating media.
National: Republican FEC Commissioners Go Public With Complaints About Mystery Redaction | National Journal
The Republican commissioners of the Federal Election Commission have broken their silence about the mysterious 76-page document that was redacted against their wishes in the deadlocked decision over whether Crossroads GPS was a legitimate nonprofit. In a statement posted to the FEC’s website late Tuesday, the commission’s three Republicans pulled back the curtain a bit on the missing document. “We do not believe that these redactions are necessary,” they wrote, saying they had sought to release the documents in a closed-door commission meeting but “the vote failed.” National Journal first reported the existence of the massive redaction and the behind-the-scenes controversy earlier this month.
Federal Election Commission staff today traveled to Capitol Hill and briefed congressional officials investigating the beleaguered agency on how it intends to address recent computer security and staffing problems, officials from both government bodies confirmed. The FEC’s contingent was led by Alec Palmer, who doubles as the agency’s staff and information technology director. It wasn’t immediately clear how many congressional officials participated in the meetings, although a spokesman for Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pa., confirmed to the Center for Public Integrity that his office participated. Brady, along with Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., last week called for separate inquiries into the FEC’s recent woes, which include an October infiltrationinto its computer systems by Chinese hackers. Brady is the ranking member on the Committee on House Administration, which has FEC oversight powers.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.