Federal Election Commission chairwoman resigns, urges President Trump to address campaign finance issues

Ann Ravel made her letter of resignation public to draw attentions to the problem of the political system

By Matthew Rozsa
Published February 20, 2017 2:19PM (EST)

Less than a month after the Federal Election Commission lost a major legal battle due to its alleged discrimination against third parties, the FEC is facing harsh scrutiny for failing to address another inequity in our political system — namely, the undue influence of big money.

In a letter of resignation that she chose to make public through Medium, FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel announced that she will resign effective March 1st but wants President Trump to know about the issues that most concern her about modern American elections.

"The mission of the FEC is essential to ensuring a fair electoral process," Ravel writes. "Yet, since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, our political campaigns have been awash in unlimited, often dark money."

After going on to discuss how elections are now bankrolled by "a tiny, highly unrepresentative segment of the population," Ravel points out how Trump himself drew attention to the "broken" nature of American campaign financing during the 2016 presidential election.

"Many of these same concerns have been voiced by Americans of all political views who are angry at the disproportionate influence of big money on government policy," Ravel writes. "At least 87% of Americans — including more than 80% of people in both major parties — favor changes to our campaign finance laws so that wealth does not dictate political influence."

Ravel closes by asking Trump to strengthen disclosure laws, reexamine Citizens United, support public financing of candidates, and appoint commissioners "who will carry out the mandates of the law."

Ravel explained to The Washington Post that she was leaving due to an "enforcement crisis" at the FEC that left her unable to implement meaningful reforms. "I recognized that raising the problems at the commission — after a certain point, they stopped to resonate, if you keep saying the same things all the time," Ravel said.

While President Trump is prohibited from appointing a Republican to replace Ravel, he could choose an independent instead of selecting a Democrat.

The problems with the election system aren't new: In 2015, "The Daily Show" profiled the dysfunction at the organization.


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Ann Ravel Citizens United Donald Trump Federal Election Commission