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Federal Election Commission
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) was created by Congress in 1975 to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) - the statute that governs the financing of federal elections. The duties of the FEC, which is an independent regulatory agency, are to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections.

The FEC Is Back—With an Interesting First Test PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Election Commission (FEC)
By Bob Bauer   
July 28, 2008
This article was posted at Bob Bauer's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

The Federal Election Commission convenes soon after a long time away and immediately confronts a question of considerable interest presented by Club for Growth.  In an Advisory Opinion Request (2007-33), on the agenda for the 28th of this month, Club for Growth asks for relief from the spoken "disclaimer" requirements—the "Stand by Your Ad" requirements—for television advertising 10 or 15 seconds in length.

The Club argues that within an ad of that length, the seconds consumed by the spoken disclaimer eats deeply into the time for the message, taking up roughly 24% of the 15 second ad and 31% of the 10 second spot.  The Club wishes to "truncate" this spoken disclaimer or omit it altogether, rely for its disclosure on the screen display of the written version.  It appeals to Commission rules that permit the omission of printed disclaimers on printed items or where their inclusion would be "impractical," 11 C.F.R. §§ 110.11(f)(1)(i) and(ii), and on related Commission Advisory Opinions.
Senate Rules and Administration Committee Approves Nominees to Federal Election Commission PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Election Commission (FEC)
By Senate Rules and Administration Committee   
May 22, 2008
Committee Urges Full Senate to Swiftly Confirm Nominees

The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, chaired by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), today approved the nomination of three new members to the Federal Election Commission.

"This vote means the FEC is one step closer to restoring a working quorum. This vote comes not a moment too soon. It is unconscionable that in the middle of a presidential election year, with campaign committees spending millions of dollars, that we don't have our federal election watchdog in place," Senator Feinstein said. "Clearly, we need a fully functioning Commission to ensure the integrity of our system of raising and spending campaign funds. I'm hopeful the full Senate will confirm these nominees, along with a fourth nominee whose nomination is still before the full Senate. I believe it would be a terrible mistake to delay the process further."
Hans von Spakovsky Withraws from FEC Nomination PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Election Commission (FEC)
By Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation   
May 16, 2008
Likely Confirmation of Caroline Hunter Wil Create Opening at Election Assistance Commission

Bowing to opposition from Senate Democrats and citing the strain on his family caused by the protracted controversy over his nomination, Hans von Spakovsky has withdrawn his name for consideration for a seat on the Federal Election Commission. Von Spakovsky has been a lightning rod for criticism since his recess appointment to the FEC in December, 2006, primarily for his actions while in the Department of Justice.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) issued a statement calling Mr. Von Spakovsky’s withdrawal “a victory for our electoral process” and suggesting that the process of confirming a slate of nominees for the FEC would proceed quickly. The commission has lacked the quorum necessary for official action since the confirmation stalled over Mr. Spakovsky’s nomination last Fall.

A confirmation hearing was already scheduled by the Senate Rules and Admistrtion Committee for May 21 to consider a list of nominees that did not include Mr. Spakovsky and it is widely assumed that the process will move quickly with a full Senate vote perhaps even before Memorial Day. A  spokesman for Senate Rules Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein told Bloomberg News "Mr. von Spakovsky's decision to withdraw will certainly help expedite approval of the other commissioners". 

Significantly the new slate of nominees includes Caroline Hunter, who joined the Election Assistance Commission last year and currently serves as vice chair. If she is confirmed as expected, it will leave an opening at the EAC heading into the November elections.

Download the resignation letter.

No Barking in the Night About the FEC PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Election Commission (FEC)
By Bob Bauer   
December 20, 2007

This article was posted on Bob Bauer's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.


The Federal Election Commission, a six member body (now under five in number), may pass shortly, and for all practical purposes, out of existence, it now appearing that the Senate cannot agree on the pending nominations.  But another six member body may soon be born,  to enforce not the campaign finance laws but the House ethics code.  A task force established by the Speaker has now produced its recommendations, and this is the surprise of the season: the reform community has much to say about the ethics process and is virtually silent on the troubles of the FEC.


Or perhaps it is not as surprising as all that. The reform community has decided that the FEC, as currently constituted, is not worth the bother.  Not even the prospect  of the federal campaign finance law left unenforced in the middle of an election cycle has moved the reformers to protest.  In this sense, the reformers have made common cause with Mitch McConnell, each wishing to allow the FEC’s demise to speak loudly to their larger points. The reform community wants to make it clear that the FEC is beyond salvation and that the time has come to consider alternatives.  McConnell would go farther and argue that neither this agency nor a more “effective” or “powerful” version is needed or a force for good.  They agree, it seems, on the proposition of most immediate import, which is that they can do without this agency, at this time.


The reformers have now turned their attention to the proposal to establish an independent Office of Congressional Ethics to supplement ethics enforcement.  Their grievance, or the one they have chosen to highlight, is that the Office will not have independent authority to issue subpoenas.  Their fear (or argument) is that without this investigative authority, the Office will not be taken seriously. Witnesses will “stonewall”; investigations will be superficial; wrongdoing will go unaddressed.  Reform organizations would prefer a process that is more like a substitute for, rather than a supplement to, Congress’ own enforcement of its rules: an independent Director rather than Board decision-making, an independent staff, and independent subpoea power.  Congress would be left with a formal role, more or less relegated to passing on the independent Board’s recommendations at the end of the process and under much pressure to do as the Office asked or to explain, defensively, why it would not.

"Needing" The FEC--And Why.... PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Election Commission (FEC)
By Bob Bauer   
December 10, 2007

This article was posted at Bob Bauer's Blog and reposted here with permission of the author.


The Washington Post, faced with the choice, would put aside appointment controversies and keep the FEC in operating condition for this coming election year.  It is not warm toward Commissioner Von Spakovsky but it can abide another term for him if this is needed to avoid, in effect, closing the agency. And while the paper is troubled by Von Spakovsky’s “over the top” rhetoric on enforcement issues and reform positions, it does not find in him the “utter hostility” to the law that its believes Brad Smith, whose appointment the Post opposed, to have displayed.


This is an interesting editorial.  It will ruin the breakfasts of Gerry Hebert of the Campaign Legal Center and others who have put up furious and tireless resistance to the Von Spakovsky appointment.  But the Post position is as much a reflection on the FEC and the campaign laws as it is about Von Spakovsky: it is a meditation on “hostility” to the campaign finance laws, on the expectations for an agency with this charge and these powers, and on the politics of campaign finance enforcement.  It explains why, for the Post and other reform supporters, the FEC can be both “toothless”—a way of saying “useless”—and also, mysteriously, so badly needed.


So it goes with the FEC as beheld by its reform critics: can’t love it, can’t  live without it.  The Post speaks sympathetically of the view that “the FEC is a toothless agency in need of an overhaul.”  The Post does not, for all that, wish to see the agency “crippled”: it is a “referee”, needed fairly urgently “in a critical election year”.   What is that need, if the agency is so weak: why, as the Post says, is “a flawed FEC better than no FEC at all”?

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