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.
According to Michael Toner, a Republican election lawyer and former commissioner, it’s perfectly proper to advise a client, “you have three commissioners who say this is lawful, and that is something you can rely on between now and November for your campaign strategy.”
The Republican chairman of the commission, Lee Goodman, said the panel was simply deferring to First Amendment political speech. The “tie goes to the speaker,” he said, which sounds like a defense of civil liberties until you remember that Republicans (with the backing of the Supreme Court) now consider money to be speech, so that ties actually go to the rich.
Full Article: The Elections Cop Invites Mischief – NYTimes.com.