Democrats are plotting the death — and rebirth — of a hamstrung Federal Election Commission now that they’ll control the White House and both chambers of Congress

FEC Ellen Weintraub

Summary List Placement

Having won two runoff Senate elections in Georgia, Democrats are about to realize the power scenario of which they’ve long dreamt: Joe Biden in the White House and liberals controlling both chambers of Congress.

It’s the best opportunity yet, four members of Congress tell Insider, to execute a plan years in the making. Through legislation, they want put the Federal Election Commission, the nation’s hobbled political money regulator, out of its prolonged misery — then reanimate it stronger than ever.

For most of the 2020 election, the bipartisan FEC 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 extreme action.

“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.

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.” 

Amid other pressing priorities — economic aid, healthcare, infrastructure — the nascent 117th Congress has already taken initial steps in this direction, this month introducing a new version of H.R. 1, a sweeping “democracy reform” bill that includes a major FEC overhaul. 

An emboldened, Democrat-led Congress will aim 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. 

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Other proposed reforms, both included in H.R. 1 and not, 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.”

Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, the lead sponsor of H.R. 1, said the FEC “dysfunctional and toothless” in its current form.

He told Insider that the government must reform the commission’s structure in order to “effectively combat corruption, reduce the undue influence of wealthy donors and corporations, sniff out foreign money in our political system, and restore trust in our democracy.”

‘Men’s nipples’

Created in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, the FEC is an independent agency where no more than three commission seats may be occupied by any one party. This, by design, aims to ensure that neither Democrats nor Republicans dominate decision-making.

Especially in recent years, this has sometimes led to ideological paralysis. But the FEC just endured the lowest point of its 46-year history.

Save for a few weeks in June and July, the FEC lacked enough commissioners from September 2019 to mid-December 2020 to conduct any high-level business. With only three commissioners and no quorum, the commission could not “hold hearings, issue rules, or enforce campaign finance law and regulation,” as the …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Politics


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