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.
FEC petitions of this kind typically are made by outside supplicants — organizations or individuals trying to spur the nation’s top election regulators take up some matter. No sitting commissioner has ever filed such a petition in the agency’s 40-year history, Ravel said.
The six-member commission is locked in partisan gridlock, however, often deadlocking 3-3 on major cases, ranging from whether foreign interests improperly influenced a California Ballot initiative to whether some tax-exempt groups spending heavily in elections should register as political committees and disclose their donors.