Democrats are plotting the death — and rebirth — of a crippled Federal Election Commission

FEC Ellen Weintraub

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The scenario: Democrats sweep into power come January, with Joe Biden in the White House and liberals controlling both chambers of Congress.

It’d be the best opportunity yet, four members of Congress tell Insider, to execute a plan years in the making: put the Federal Election Commission, the nation’s crippled political money regulator, out of its prolonged misery. Then reanimate it stronger than ever.

Expect some Democrats to make this case in earnest when three FEC commissioner nominees — Republicans Allen Dickerson and Sean J. Cooksey and Democrat Shana Broussard — appear Wednesday before the US Senate Committee on Rules and Administration for a confirmation hearing months in the making. 

“We need to stop treating the agency that’s charged with keeping corruption out of our elections like a political pawn,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the Rules Committee’s ranking Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate.

If the full Senate confirms these nominees, the bipartisan FEC would feature a full complement of six commissioners for the first time in nearly four years. And for most of the 2020 election, the FEC has simply lacked the four commissioners legally required to enforce laws and regulate the actions of the thousands of political committees and actors under its purview — prompting some Democrats to call for more extreme action.

It’s “completely off the rails” to have conducted the presidential and congressional elections without a fully functioning FEC, said Rep. Derek Kilmer, a Washington Democrat who has called for reforms to the agency.

“This is about getting the referees back on the field,” Kilmer told Insider. “What the American people want and expect is that laws will actually be enforced.”

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Rep. David Price, a North Carolina Democrat, told Insider that the FEC “is the most dysfunctional agency I know, and unless you think a damaged commission with party loyalists lined up in it is a desirable outcome, you want significant reform,” 

By law, no more than three FEC commission seats may be occupied by any one party. This, by design, aims to ensure that neither Democrats nor Republicans dominate decision-making.

But an emboldened, Democrat-led Congress would almost certainly attempt to reduce the number of FEC commissioners from six to five — similar to the makeup of the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission — thereby nixing frequent deadlocks along ideological lines. 

Other proposed reforms include giving the FEC a slate of new enforcement and administrative powers, restricting how political candidates and super PACs may coordinate efforts, forcing political candidates to give away unused campaign cash — even changing the FEC’s name to the “Federal Election Administration.”

Congressional Democrats could choose to offer stand-alone FEC reform legislation. The most likely vehicle for an FEC revamp is H.R. 1, a sweeping “democracy reform” bill that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently said she’d revive in a new Congress alongside other pressing priorities — economic aid, healthcare, infrastructure  — as part of a Biden administration agenda.

Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, the lead sponsor of the current version of the bill, said …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Politics

      

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