Federal Election Commission Closing in on Total Paralysis

Congress Must Explore Creation of New, Independent, Campaign Finance Watchdog

Statement by Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause

At the month’s end, the Federal Election Commission will attain a status unique (one hopes) in our government: All of its members will be serving past the expiration date of their terms, left in office because the President and Congress have been unable to agree on their successors.

These unfilled vacancies are a sad commentary on the state of partisanship in Washington. They persist because the President, while professing his support for tough campaign finance law enforcement, has failed to nominate new commissioners and because Republicans in the Senate who wield an effective veto power over his nominees are determined to sabotage any enforcement.

The FEC arguably is the most dysfunctional agency in our government. Again and again, partisan deadlocks among its members have left it unable to enforce our election laws and execute critically important rulemakings. When combined with misguided court decisions like Citizens United, the result is a campaign finance structure wide open to corruption.

To break this impasse, senators at today’s hearing must explore the creation of a new, well-funded election agency, independent of the executive branch, structured to prevent partisan deadlock, and empowered to effectively administer and enforce campaign finance laws. While that legislation is pending, we have asked President Obama to create a bi-partisan panel to recommend a slate of nominees to replace the five current hold-over commissioners — and fill the commission’s one vacancy — with members committed to enforcing and strengthening our election laws. If the Senate fails to act, the President should install the panel’s nominees as recess appointees.