Wholly unable to regulate the vote, our failed Federal Election Commission may need replacement
In a letter sent today, reform groups urged Senators to cosponsor the Federal Election Administration Act being introduced today by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM). The Act provides a framework and the basis for developing a new legislative approach for properly enforcing and interpreting the campaign finance laws and creates a new independent agency to replace the FEC.
The groups included Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Issue One, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, Rootstrikers and U.S. PIRG. The letter stated:
The Federal Election Commission is a failed, dysfunctional agency that does not enforce or properly interpret the nation’s campaign finance laws.
As a result, campaigns, political operatives, parties and independent spenders know they can operate with impunity and without consequences for campaign finance violations. This has created the modern political equivalent of the Wild West without a sheriff. It also means that any new campaign finance laws that are enacted will face the same problem of being undermined by the FEC’s failure to enforce the laws as the current laws.
The letter continued:
The five-member FEA will consist of a chairman and four other members, all of whom are to be appointed by the president, with the advice and consent of the Senate. (Currently the FEC consists of six members.) The FEA chairman will serve a term of ten years and will have broad powers to manage and administer the agency. The four other members will serve staggered six year terms. No more than two members of the agency can be from the same political party.
The legislation would establish a blue ribbon advisory panel to recommend to the president at least one, but not more than three individuals for appointment to the FEA. The panel would consist of an odd number of individuals selected by the president from retired Federal judges, former law enforcement officials, or individuals with experience in election law.
The new agency would use impartial administrative law judges to hear and decide campaign finance enforcement proceedings, an approach currently used by a number of other enforcement agencies to help provide for independent, impartial decisions, but not currently used by the FEC.
The new agency would have real enforcement powers, including the power to find that violations of law have occurred and to directly impose civil penalties. These are enforcement powers available to other federal agencies, but not available to the FEC.
The letter concluded:
The legislation addresses major reasons for the failure of the current FEC, including the ineffectual structure and cumbersome procedures of the Commission, the politicization of the appointment of commissioners, the lack of effective enforcement powers and the denial of adequate resources for the agency. We urge you to support and cosponsor the Act and begin the process of establishing a new, effective enforcement body to oversee the nation’s campaign finance laws.