Tags: Trump Administration | fec | pacs | campaign | spending | abuse | Ann Ravel

FEC Chief: 'Slim Chance' of Stopping 2016 Spending Abuses

By    |   Monday, 04 May 2015 09:03 AM

The Federal Elections Commission — the independent regulatory agency created in 1975 to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act — will probably not be able to stop spending abuses in the 2016 presidential campaign, FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel tells The New York Times.

"The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim," Ravel, a Democrat appointed to head the nonpartisan agency in December, told the Times. "I never want to give up, but I'm not under any illusions. People think the FEC is dysfunctional. It's worse than dysfunctional."

Designed to encourage bipartisan decisions, the six-member commission is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans. By law, according to the FEC's website, no more than three commissioners can be members of the same political party and at least four votes are required for any official commission action to be taken.

That setup has resulted in a logjam, according to the Times, which reports that there is a constant deadlock of 3-to-3 ties on "key votes" stemming from "a fundamental disagreement over the mandate of the commission."

Ravel blames the Republican members of the commission, arguing that they "don't want to enforce the law, except in the most obvious cases." That position is "destructive to the political process," she said.

Not so, according to Republican commissioner Lee Goodman, who said things are working just as Congress intended when the agency was formed after Watergate.

"Congress set this place up to gridlock," Goodman told the newspaper. "This agency is functioning as Congress intended. The democracy isn't collapsing around us."

Fellow GOP commissioner Caroline Hunter agreed with Goodman.

"We're not interested in going after people unless the law is fairly clear, and we're not willing to take the law beyond where it's written," she said.

The duties of the FEC include disclosing campaign finance information, enforcing the provisions of the law, such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and overseeing the public funding of presidential elections.

The commission's oversight is particularly significant in the 2016 race, which is expected to be the most expensive in history with an anticipated price tag of $10 billion, according to The Hill.

The once cohesive commission — in 2006 it voted unanimously to impose major fines against high-profile groups affiliated with both parties that broke campaign finance laws by misusing their tax-exempt status for political fundraising and campaigning — has become much like Congress, paralyzed and partisan, according to the Times.

Ravel is upset with the Republican members of the commission for refusing to take action against four nonprofit groups, including Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, for allegedly "improperly using their tax-exempt status for massive and well-financed political campaigns."

The Times reports that conservative billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch have vowed to spend close to $1 billion through their personal political network, while former Secretary of State and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has said she plans to raise more than twice that amount.

The open season on political spending is the result of a 2010 landmark Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The high court's ruling found that political spending is protected as a form of free speech, "meaning corporations and unions could spend unlimited amounts of money on political activities, as long as it was done independently of a party or candidate," according to a January U.S. News & World Report piece.

The FEC has already received complaints accusing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley of skirting finance laws by raising money without officially declaring their candidacy, according to the Times.

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The Federal Elections Commission - the independent regulatory agency created in 1975 to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act - will probably not be able to stop spending abuses in the 2016 presidential campaign, FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel tells The New York Times.
fec, pacs, campaign, spending, abuse, Ann Ravel
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2015-03-04
Monday, 04 May 2015 09:03 AM
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