Citing dark money fears, coalition raises alarm over "zombie" FEC during pivotal 2020 elections

The FEC has no quorum as the nation heads into an election year

Published January 14, 2020 4:59AM (EST)

Voting booths in polling place (Getty Images/Hill Street Studios)
Voting booths in polling place (Getty Images/Hill Street Studios)

This article originally appeared at Common Dreams. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

A coalition of progressive groups on Monday urged President Donald Trump and Senate leaders to reconvene the Federal Elections Commission with a full slate of members committed to enforcing campaign finance laws in time for the 2020 general election with a full slate of members committed to enforcing campaign finance laws.

The coalition of 21 organizations — including the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Public Citizen, Common Cause, Democracy 21, and CREW — called on the White House and Senate to appoint commissioners with an interest in enforcement in an open letter (pdf).

"To stop the explosion of secret election spending by wealthy special interests, the practice of nominating FEC Commissioners who carry water for those interests must end," CLC senior director and chief of staff Adav Noti said in a statement announcing the letter.

The coalition's missive was sent in response to a letter from January 6 written by 31 campaign finance attorneys calling on the FEC to immediately instate six commissioners to allow the body to continue its work. 

Concerns over the issues presented in the election by a hamstrung FEC are not new.Common Dreams reported that advocates were last August warning of the problems to the election presented by the FEC's lack of quorum.

"It is beyond belief that in this presidential year of enormous consequence, the nation's campaign finance enforcement agency is defunct because it does not have enough commissioners for a quorum to take action to enforce the laws," Democracy 21 founder and president Fred Wertheimer said Monday.

In November, Center for Public Integrity editor-at-large Dave Levinthal noted that the lack of quorum would become a major problem if the FEC "zombie-walks into the teeth of Election 2020."

As of Monday, the FEC has been without a quorum for 135 days, said political advocacy group Issue One.

"It is imperative to get the campaign finance cop back on the beat as this nation enters what promises to be the most expensive election in history," Public Citizen government affairs lobbyist Craig Holman said in a statement. "But it is just as important that we get a functional campaign finance cop on the beat."

By Eoin Higgins

Eoin Higgins is a journalist in New England. He writes the Flashpoint newsletter.

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