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March 11, 2011

Mr. President, Fix the FEC

By crewstaff

Kudos to the New York Times for calling on President Obama to appoint new commissioners to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). As the piece correctly notes, the three Republican members routinely vote to ignore staff recommendations for enforcement, often with profound consequences:

“The message to candidates entering the new era of unlimited big-money campaigning is clear.  So long as the Republican members of the FEC get their way, nobody’s minding the store and anything goes.”

So what’s the solution?

In a post-Citizens United world, the integrity of our elections is in dire straits. At the very least, we should expect our government to enforce the regulations already in place. But not even that is happening. 

By law, FEC commissioners are appointed on a rotating basis for six-year terms. In reality, however, commissioners continue to serve until their replacements have been confirmed. Currently, half of the six FEC commissioners have long overstayed their terms. By April of this year the terms of two other commissioners will have expired, leaving only one legitimately serving commissioner. 

Despite the glaring need for new commissioners to fill these vacancies, President Obama has not nominated anyone to the commission since John Sullivan failed to win Senate confirmation in 2009. As a direct result, the three Republican commissioners have been able to hold the FEC captive to their partisan and anti-regulatory views. These political hacks defy their statutory obligations and regularly spurn the enforcement recommendations of the FEC general counsel.  

As the New York Times correctly notes, however, President Obama can make a real difference if he breaks the tradition of having party leaders select nominees who only further their political interests, and nominates individuals who will enforce the laws. 

We couldn’t agree more.

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