Democrats Try to Undermine FEC to Justify Increased Campaign Finance Regulation

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has jurisdiction to issue regulations and enforce federal campaign finance laws; in other words, to interpret and enforce the regulation of Americans' political speech, which is protected by the First Amendment.  

For years, Democrats have attempted to expand regulation of political speech through onerous disclaimer, disclosure, and reporting requirements; low contribution limits; making the FEC a partisan body controlled by the President's party (such as in H.R. 1 and the perennial DISCLOSE Act); outright speech prohibitions; and even through spending limits (which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional back in Buckley v. Valeo).  

With the resignation of Republican FEC Commissioner Matt Petersen, the FEC is back in the news.

In an effort to justify the increased restrictions on and regulation of political speech that they desire, Democrats have crafted a narrative of FEC "dysfunction."  What Democrats mean by "dysfunction" at the FEC is that the FEC--primarily the FEC Republicans--are enforcing the law as written and providing required due process rights to those under the FEC's jurisdiction, instead of creatively "interpreting" the law to regulate speech in the way that Democrats and the liberal "reform" community would prefer.

With the departure of Commissioner Petersen, the FEC only has three members and is therefore unable to take many official actions, as the votes of four commissioners are required.  The three remaining members--Republican Commissioner Caroline Hunter, Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, and Independent (though generally votes with the Democrats) Commission Steven Walther--have all exceeded their six-year terms and could be replaced once their successors are confirmed.  

Democrats, liberals, and the media are trying to pin the lack of a quorum on President Trump and Senate Republicans, but it is Senate Democrats, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who have refused to move forward with placing new or replacing commissioners on the FEC.  

President Trump nominated Trey Trainor to be a Republican commissioner back in September 2017, but Senate Democrats have not named a Democrat nominee to be paired with Mr. Trainor.  FEC commissioners are always paired Republican+Democrat to move through the confirmation process.

Why would Senate Democrats not wish the FEC to be fully staffed?  Because if it is limited in its ability to function through lacking a quorum of commissioners, it feeds their "dysfunction" narrative and bolsters their efforts to increase campaign finance regulations.

And one commissioner, as we have chronicled, has sought to undermine and corrupt the FEC from the inside.  Commissioner Ellen Weintraub pledged not to let the FEC defend itself (or, by extension, the statutes under its jurisdiction) in court.  She has used her office to attack a president with whom she disagrees while retaining enforcement jurisdiction over him and his campaign.  Her staff run the "resistance" altFEC Twitter account.  

Commissioner Weintraub has served on the FEC since 2002 and has given no indication that she wishes to leave.  A new commissioner would need to be nominated and confirmed to replace her. 

Senate Democrats would rather see the FEC understaffed and literally non-functional in order to undermine the agency and justify further regulation, instead of recognizing how vital it is that the FEC and its commissioners respect the rule of law and Americans' free speech rights.