Letter to Sen. Harry Reid regarding the FEC deadlock

April 9, 2008

Honorable Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader


The Capitol

Washington, DC

Dear Senator Reid:

As you know, Common Cause has a long history as an advocate for strong enforcement of our nation's campaign finance laws. This is why we feel it is urgent that you move immediately to resolve the deadlock over nominations to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).

The fact that the country does not have a functional election watchdog during the most important presidential election in a generation is a national embarrassment. It is like playing the World Series without an umpire. Without effective enforcement, our campaign finance laws are rendered meaningless.

We request to meet with you to explore possible solutions to this unprecedented crisis.

The 2008 election is on pace to become the most expensive in history. According to year-end reports filed with the FEC, the presidential candidates raised a total of nearly $552 million in 2007 for the 2008 primaries - more than double the previous off-year record. A National Journal column recently noted that the absence of a functioning FEC has "given politically minded activist groups the green light" to pour unprecedented, unlimited and undisclosed amounts of money into various organizations, such as 527s and 501(c)(4) groups. A record level of political giving and spending in an anything-goes environment empowers interest groups, thereby disenfranchising citizens.

America is also at risk of having the first general election since 1976 where the major-party candidates run without spending limits - not because they may want to, but because there is no functional FEC to qualify them for the program.

As you know, the FEC is singularly responsible for oversight of presidential and Congressional campaigns. The failure of Congress to appoint commissioners to the FEC amounts to an obstruction of the enforcement of federal campaign finance law. To deny the possibility of creating a quorum capable of taking official action is an invitation to lawlessness. It is an embarrassment to a country rooted in the rule of law.

In order for Americans to have some measure of faith that the 2008 elections will be fair, transparent and honest, a way must be found to resolve the current Congressional impasse. The FEC must be authorized to resume its work immediately.

We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible on this urgent matter.


Bob Edgar

President and CEO

Jim Leach


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