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Author Topic:   Gerrymandering and Voter Suppression
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Message 45 of 83 (862542)
09-06-2019 11:46 AM

The Disabling of the Federal Election Commission
From Wikipedia:
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is an independent regulatory agency whose purpose is to enforce campaign finance law in United States federal elections. Created in 1974 through amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act, the commission describes its duties as "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 commission is made up of six members, who are appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate. Each member serves a six-year term, and two seats are subject to appointment every two years. By law, no more than three commissioners can be members of the same political party, and at least four votes are required for any official commission action.

The chairmanship of the commission rotates among the members each year, with no member serving as chairman more than once during a six-year term. However, a member may serve as chairman more than once by serving beyond the six-year mark if no successor is appointed; for example, Ellen Weintraub, the current chairman, was previously chairman in both 2003 and 2013.

Official duties

The commission's role is limited to the administration of federal campaign finance laws. It enforces limitations and prohibitions on contributions and expenditures, administers the reporting system for campaign finance disclosure, investigates and prosecutes violations (investigations are typically initiated by complaints from other candidates, parties, watchdog groups, and the public), audits a limited number of campaigns and organizations for compliance, administers the presidential public funding programs for presidential candidates and, until recently, nominating conventions, and defends the statute in challenges to federal election laws and regulations.

The FEC also publishes reports filed by Senate, House of Representatives and presidential campaigns that list how much each campaign has raised and spent, and a list of all donors over $200, along with each donor's home address, employer and job title. This database also goes back to 1980. Private organizations are legally prohibited from using these data to solicit new individual donors (and the FEC authorizes campaigns to include a limited number of "dummy" names as a measure to prevent this), but may use this information to solicit political action committees. The FEC also maintains an active program of public education, directed primarily to explaining the law to the candidates, their campaigns, political parties and other political committees that it regulates.

I think that we can all agree that the FEC is going to be needed in the 2020 election.

As of last weekend, the FEC cannot do anything. In order to take any kind of action, they need to have a quorum consisting of four commissioners. The FEC is now down to three commissioners so, lacking a quorum, all they can do call for a recess. In order to have a quorum, President Trump needs to appoint at least one new commissioner and the Senate will need to confirm that appointment. Since the FEC's job obviously conflicts directly with Trump's own interests, how likely is it that he would make such an appointment?

How did we get here? The Trump Administration started with a full complement of six commissioners. Then Ann Ravel (D) resigned in March 2017, bringing the number down to 5, and is currently running for California State Senate. Then Lee E. Goodman (R) retired in February 2018, bringing the number down to 4, the bare minimum number needed for a quorum.

By this point, Trump should have appointed at least one commissioner -- he could have appointed a Republican which would have brought that party's representation up to its 3-member max. But he didn't. To be fair, that are a great many positions that Trump has failed to fill and shows no interest in filling (except for key positions at three levels of the IRS in order to keep his tax returns secret). Now that another Republican, Matthew S. Petersen, has resigned leaving the FEC without a quorum, Trump could appoint two new Republican commissioners, but the chances of that happening are virtually nil.

That name should sound familiar. On September 11, 2017, Trump nominated him to serve as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. His Senate confirmation hearing has gone viral with the NY Times calling it one of the "more painful Senate hearings in recent memory." Although he had earned a law degree, he had absolutely zero courtroom experience and displayed ignorunce of many legal concepts (eg, motion in limine, requesting to the judge, outside the presence of the jury, that certain testimony be excluded). Unlike Trump's other shit-shows, Petersen at least had the basic common decency to withdraw his nomination a few days after that hearing.

A day or two ago, Rachel Maddow reported that Petersen is going to work for an apparently obscure law firm which, it turns out, works for rich clients to secretly influence elections. And the Swamp just keeps getting swampier and swampier.

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