From the Center for Public Integrity:
The Federal Election Commission’s four leaders are offering lawmakers clashing perspectives on the agency’s very purpose. The FEC’s greatest challenge to fulfilling its mission is a misperception that “adherence to the rule of law and sensitivity to Americans’ First Amendment rights reflect hostility towards enforcing the law or, even, toward the Commission itself,” Republican commissioners Matthew Petersen and Caroline Hunter wrote.
Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, took the opposite view, arguing the FEC has been “severely challenged from the inside by a group of commissioners who harbor ideological opposition to the very nature of the agency and the law we are charged with enforcing.”
The FEC commissioners’ comments are part of 171 pages’ worth of responses to dozens of questions Committee on House Administration Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., sent the FEC on April 1.
The Center for Public Integrity on Thursday obtained the FEC responses, dated May 1, from the Committee on House Administration. Commissioners at the FEC — an independent, bipartisan agency tasked with enforcing and regulating federal campaign finance laws — had refused the Center for Public Integrity’s requests to review their responses.
Lofgren has openly doubted the FEC’s ability to function as the agency struggles with deadlocked votes, internal conflict, chronic vacancies and low morale. Her inquiries come at a time when “dark money” and the specter of foreign election influence have captured the attention of the public amid historically long and expensive federal campaign seasons.
The FEC’s commissioners responded to Lofgren’s questions jointly, but Weintraub and independent Commissioner Steven Walther also sent individual responses to some of her questions. Petersen and Hunter issued separate, joint responses to Lofgren’s queries about “deadlocks” and the FEC’s greatest challenges to fulfilling its mission and mandate.
Together, the four FEC commissioners acknowledged a significant backlog in open cases involving alleged or suspected violations of election law.
The responses revealed that the FEC had 289 unresolved cases on its enforcement docket as of May 1, some of which date to the 2012 election cycle. Of those, 45 cases contain elements that have either exceeded, or will soon exceed, a five-year statute of limitations for acting on them.
The backlog will be addressed “through both increased productivity and the continued implementation of certain systemic reforms,” the FEC commissioners wrote the Committee on House Administration. Weintraub, the chair, has committed to scheduling more meetings this year.
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