Senate leaders must explore solutions to deadlock over FEC nominees

Common Cause President Bob Edgar and Chairman Jim Leach on Wednesday called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to explore possible solutions to the deadlock over nominees to the Federal Election 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,” Edgar and Leach wrote in a letter. “It is like playing the World Series without an umpire. Without effective enforcement, our campaign finance laws are rendered meaningless.”

Edgar and Leach requested a meeting with each Reid and McConnell to explore possible solutions to the crisis.

With only two sitting commissioners, the FEC lacks a quorum to take any official actions in upholding campaign finance law. The letter notes that the 2008 presidential election is on track to be the most expensive election in history and that the FEC is the only agency with oversight powers, and that the Senate has an obligation to work toward a functioning FEC.

“The failure of Congress to appoint commissioners to the FEC amounts to an obstruction of the enforcement of federal campaign finance law,” Edgar and Leach wrote. “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.”

The impasse over nominees has also prevented the FEC from issuing final rules on the disclosure of lobbyist “bundling,” which it is required to do under the Open Government and Honest Leadership Act of 2007. This provision of the ethics reform bill, passed in the wake of the lobbying scandals of the previous years, cannot be enforced until the FEC has a quorum.