Last week’s resignation
of Federal Election Commission (FEC) Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen is a major blow to the policing of our elections. With the mind-numbing daily news cycle, the average American probably has no clue how foreign entities can jump on this development to sway the 2020 races.
Twenty years ago a Congressional investigation cited FEC rulings in detailing the massive movement of money from Chinese interests into the DNC and Bill Clinton’s campaign. With President Trump’s tough line on Chinese trade and no FEC to issue decisions on illicit contributions, the Chinese and other countries will see this as a chance to trade campaign money for softer negotiations with the U.S.
Democrats remain livid about Russian Facebook meddling during the 2016 election — but that was a mere $200,000.
China is among many countries with money that believes it would do better with a new U.S. President, so Republicans could be the target of millions of dollars coming from a place like Iran (which received $150 billion during President Obama’s second term) or tariff-target China, whose economy is four times as large as Russia’s ($1.86 trillion).
Only the FEC stands in the way of China’s next retaliation to tariffs coming in the form of massive campaign meddling.
According to their website, the role of the FEC is to promote confidence and participation in the democratic process. More specifically, to “protect the integrity of the federal campaign finance process in providing transparency and fairly enforcing and administering federal campaign finance laws.”
The three major areas covered by the Commission are public disclosure of funds raised and spent to influence federal elections, restrictions on contributions and expenditures made to influence federal elections, and public financing of presidential campaigns.
It takes four of six FEC Commissioners to vote on any matter, but with Lee Goodman resigning from the FEC back in February, the Petersen resignation means no vote can be taken on any breaking of U.S. election laws by candidates or political campaigns.
As for why Matthew Peterson abruptly resigned, he clearly wanted to leave the FEC in order to become a federal judge, and had to withdraw after being widely attacked after his nomination testimony.
A perfect example of the FEC stepping in to do its job with online activity was in October of 2017 when Take Back Action Fund (of which I am President) asked the FEC whether Facebook should include full disclosures on political ads. After an investigation, the FEC ruled four months later against Facebook, requiring them to disclose who is paying for ads.
But now, the one group that can make a ruling like the FEC did in this case when the Russians used Facebook to meddle in the 2016 presidential election can now never make a ruling against Russia, Iran, China or anyone else.
So, for anyone who is concerned about China or any other foreign group flooding campaign money into U.S. candidates who are tougher on trade, having no functioning FEC takes away the only group charged with monitoring these illicit practices.
With the incentive of so many foreign countries to influence the 2020 elections in order to put their interest above those of Americans, President Trump needs to fill both the Democratic and Republican open seats to put a traffic cop back in place prior to the upcoming elections.
Our victory at the FEC against Facebook in 2018 may very well be one of the last FEC decisions for the foreseeable future.
Months after Facebook lost their attempt to keep political ads anonymous, CEO Mark Zuckerberg had the nerve to take credit for the new transparency during his famous Congressional testimony.
Whether you’re on the right or the left, a nonfunctioning FEC means next year’s elections could equate to the wild west of political races. The president must act before it’s too late.
John Pudner is Executive Director of Takeback.org, a non-profit home for Americans seeking true political reform. Our conservative solutions include: stopping illicit foreign money from impacting elections; ending pay-to-play in government contracting; and restoring the Reagan-era federal tax credit for small-dollar political contributions, which will encourage more citizens to become donors and help re-balance the campaign finance system. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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