FEC Commissioner Weintraub: Using FEC Resources to Engage in Partisan Activity

Former FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel's ally at the FEC, Ellen Weintraub, has also been active in demonstrating the Democrat FEC commissioners' political bias.  After President Trump's call for an investigation of voter fraud last month and his statements about fraud contributing to the defeat of Sen. Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Commissioner Weintraub issued an official statement from her office as Commissioner questioning the statement and calling upon President Trump to share evidence of the claim.

The problem is that the FEC does not have jurisdiction over vote fraud, election administration, or federal elections broadly.  The FEC's jurisdiction is campaign finance, yet Commissioner Weintraub used official FEC resources to question the President's statements on fraud.  In a complaint filed yesterday with the FEC's Inspector General, Cause of Action called for an investigation (internal citations omitted):

CoA Institute requests that you open an investigation to determine whether Ellen Weintraub, a Commissioner of the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”), violated applicable ethics regulations when she used government property and official time to call on President Trump to provide evidence of his claims of voter fraud in New Hampshire and then continued to promote her statement after it was issued. We also urge you to determine whether it is appropriate for the FEC website to continue to host Commissioner Weintraub’s statement. . . . 

When subsequently asked her about her statement, Commissioner Weintraub answered that “[a]s a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, I fight every day to build the faith of the American people in our elections. . . . It’s absolutely my right to raise public questions about another public official’s statements about the integrity of our elections.” In October 2016, however, Commissioner Weintraub took the exact opposite stance, stating through her Twitter account that matters of voter fraud were beyond FEC jurisdiction. Specifically, in response to the question “What is the FEC doing abt [sic] recent reports of voter fraud?” Commissioner Weintraub replied, “That’s outside the @FEC’s jurisdiction. We do campaign finance *only*. The elections themselves are handled by the states.”

OGE regulations regarding the use of government property provide that “[a]n employee has a duty to protect and conserve Government property and shall not use such property, or allow its use, for other than authorized purposes.” . . . Pursuant to these rules, Commissioner Weintraub may only use FEC property and act in her official capacity for purposes that advance the FEC mission as authorized by law. . . . In compliance with its authorizing statute, the FEC website describes its jurisdiction as being limited to “the financing of campaigns for the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, the Presidency and the Vice Presidency. . . .” As evidenced by her tweet in October 2016, Commissioner Weintraub was and is aware of the boundaries of the FEC’s authority.

Despite her knowledge of the FEC’s limited jurisdiction, the two subjects discussed in Commissioner Weintraub’s February 2017 statement — investigating alleged voter fraud and New Hampshire felony criminal violations — go beyond that jurisdiction. In addition, the statement was issued on FEC letterhead and remains, as of the time of this letter, posted on the FEC website. Commissioner Weintraub also used her official time and status to prepare the statement, direct her staff to format and publish the statement, and promote the statement on CNN and NPR. For these reasons, Commissioner Weintraub’s use of government property to issue the statement and the time she took to defend that statement in national media outlets are violations of the ethics regulations to which she is subject.

Though Commissioner Ravel has left the FEC, Commissioner Weintraub has shown no interest in leaving.  This is unfortunate, as her recent actions further de-legitimize and politicize the agency.  Check out tomorrow's post for information on Commissioner Weintraub's response.