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March 24, 2011

FEC Fails Again

By crewstaff

FECIf anyone needs more confirmation of the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) current role as a tool for the party establishments, we have a case for you.

The issue in front of the commissioners was pretty straightforward. Current law requires any campaign communication to include a “clear and conspicuous” disclaimer stating who paid for it. 

“A disclaimer is not clear and conspicuous if it is difficult to read or hear, or if the placement is easily overlooked."  11 C.F.R. 110.11(c)(1).   

It appears clear that freshman Dave Schweikert (R-AZ) intentionally violated this law during his successful bid to oust then-incumbent Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-AZ). 

CREW isn't the first to comment on this sad case, but it’s a great example of why we and others are calling for an overhaul of the FEC. 

The FEC General Counsel was fairly blunt in its appraisal of the mailer, and the three Democratic commissioners agreed. This shouldn't be a partisan issue.  As you can see for yourself via the Campaign Legal Center’s website, there are several ways in which the mailer isn't up to snuff. Granted, it’s not the most egregious violation in the history of the FEC, but it seems like one that even the normally deadlocked commission could agree on. Nevertheless, they didn’t.

The three Democratic Commissioners stated quite correctly:

We agree with the complainant that this mailer seems plainly designed to conceal the disclaimer and thereby hide the connection between the Committee and the negative attack on a campaign opponent. Candidates have a right to distribute campaign advertisements, including negative attacks on their opponents. The public also has a right to know who is responsible for such advertisements. The public should not be required to engage in a game of "Hide-and-Seek" to discover the disclaimer on campaign materials...

These requirements are not onerous.... In this case, not only does the disclaimer fail to meet the requirements of the Act and regulations, but it appears that the Committee intentionally designed the mailer to make the disclaimer difficult to locate and read ... The only thing that is "conspicuous" about the disclaimer, however, is that it is conspicuously difficult to locate and read.

However, as usual, the three Republican commissioners didn’t want to enforce the law. These days, they aren’t even trying to hide it.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: It is time for President Obama to step in and appoint new commissioners. By the end of April, five of the six commissioners will be serving even though their terms have expired. It is time for the President to lead, and it’s time to fix the FEC.

 

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