When your chairwoman goes on the record as saying your agency is "worse than dysfunctional," chances are you may have a hard time attracting talent. That's the issue now faced by the Federal Election Commission in terms of its legal counsel: Next month will hit the two-year mark of the agency missing a lead attorney, NBC News reports. As first reported by the Center for Public Integrity, the organization responsible for enforcing federal election law is down a key player right before 2016 campaigning kicks into high gear, gridlock caused mainly by infighting among the six FEC commissioners: Conservatives want an attorney who's not a "bomb-thrower" and will support "minimal restrictions" on campaign funds, while liberals are vying for someone who will more tightly rein in campaign spending, the CPI notes.
It had appeared late last year the agency was close to making an offer to one of two candidates, but the commissioners were deadlocked on one contender, and the other one took a job somewhere else, the center reports. Other things that may be holding up filling the post: no ads on the federal government's jobs website and a salary (promoted last year as $147,200) that some say is too modest for the role. It probably also doesn't help that, per the Times, "some commissioners are barely on speaking terms … [and] cross-aisle negotiations are infrequent." Until now, the FEC hadn't gone more than a year without an acting or permanent head counsel, per the CPI. "It's extremely demoralizing not to have anyone in this position," Chairwoman Ann Ravel says, while Rep. Derek Kilmer, who's introduced a bill proposing a five-commissioner body, tells the CPI that "the FEC today makes Congress look comparatively functional." (Read more lawyer stories.)