In all of this discussion of elections, it’s important that we visit the structure and purpose of the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Yes, this is a bit boring, but the current structure doesn’t allow for proper enforcement against current abuses of the system. If the agency tasked with ensuring fair elections doesn’t work, the American people won’t believe that the elections are fair (and when the FEC only has 3 members, it is unable to hold a quorum or even vote on whether it should enforce any campaign regulations).
Currently, the FEC is made up of 6 members, no more than 3 of whom are from the same political party. The President typically appoints 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans, recommended by the Congressional leadership. It’s not shocking that this leads to polarization and gridlock. Through meaningful legislation, we need to give the FEC more specific regulations on how Super PACs must effectively disclose where all of its money comes from. The Brennan Center has done great work on developing a plan.
Problems to be Solved
- checkAn equal number of seats in the FEC has resulted in consistent deadlock.
- checkFEC is currently not enforcing or regulating campaign finance laws due to deadlock.
- checkCurrent members of Congress who benefit from a deadlock FEC have no incentive to appoint members that would help the FC become an effective agency.
- Because of vast infusions of money from special interest groups and the ultra-rich, our system of government has become corrupted. Money clogs the inner workings of our democracy, and lobbyists have more power to change policy than the people do. The richest Americans can buy undue influence and spend untold fortunes to affect elections. Organizations such as the NRA have single-handedly stopped overwhelmingly popular legislation from becoming law.
- checkCreate an odd number of seats on the FEC to avoid deadlock decisions
- checkRestore the FEC to actually enforce the campaign finance laws it is intended to regulate
- checkIncentivize Congress to appointment FEC members who will actually enforce campaign finance regulations
As President I will...
- Break with tradition and appoint nonpartisan members to the FEC (retired judges, academics, etc), instead of appointing the Congressional leaders’ partisan picks.
- Propose legislation that would limit the FEC to 5 members, with no more than 2 members from one political party. Additionally, the chair will be required to be nonpartisan and will be chosen with the assistance of a blue-ribbon advisory panel. Only if Congress approves of this legislation will I return to the tradition of appointing their partisan picks for the other 4 FEC members.
- Direct the FEC to focus on increasing disclosure requirements, and focusing on unearthing the donor trail, for Super PACs.