Monday, December 21, 2015
The chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission is slamming her colleagues on the way out, calling them "dysfunctional" and unable to compromise.
"My year as chair has taught me even more clearly just how dysfunctional the commission is, and how our dysfunction is harming the democratic process in this country," Chairwoman Ann Ravel wrote in an opinion piece for the California blog "CalBuzz" on Monday.
Since assuming the chair's position in January, Ravel has pursued an ambitious regulatory agenda that includes stricter regulation of campaign spending, eliminating some of the commission's members, and, as noted by the Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard, new controls over online political content on outlets like the Drudge Report, Google and Facebook.
Ravel's initiatives have largely lost in tie votes before the commission, which is mandated to have no more than half its members appointed from one political party. The chairwoman began voicing her displeasure over the divide as early as April, when she slammed the agency as "dysfunctional" in comments to the New York Times.
The chairwoman, who is set to hand her gavel to a Republican successor next month, reiterated that line of attack in her piece on Monday.
"It is the FEC's responsibility to ensure the integrity and fairness of elections by issuing regulations to clarify campaign finance laws, by providing advice about how to comply with those laws, and by enforcing the laws when they are violated," Ravel wrote. "But the commission, which consists of six members, no more than three of which may be affiliated with one political party, has been unable to do any of these things when it comes to the significant election spending issues facing this country today.
"Some of my colleagues seek to excuse this failure by arguing that the commission was intended to deadlock 3-3; a majority vote of 4 is required to take any significant action," she added. "In effect they claim that the commission they are charged with leading was in fact intended to never do anything. This is absurd."
Most troubling, Ravel said, was the fact that the commission was refusing to regulate more "dark money," or money spent by outside groups on behalf of federal candidates.
"We know that at this point in the 2016 campaign cycle, 10 times more 'dark money' has been spent than at this same point in the 2012 election cycle. Even so, the FEC has not been able to muster the four votes needed to require disclosure by those 'dark money' groups that have election spending as their major purpose."
Republicans have observed that the commission successfully achieves agreement among a majority in most cases, particularly as they pertain to complaints lodged against Republicans. At a meeting in June, GOP Commissioner Lee Goodman noted the commission successfully resolved complaints against Republicans versus complaints against Democrats by a ratio of 24-9.