Resignation Leaves Election Watchdog in a Pickle

One FEC commissioner resigns, leaving only 3, one short of a quorum
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2019 8:57 AM CDT
FEC Needs 4 Members to Operate. There's a Problem
Federal Election Commission Commissioner Ellen Weintraub testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington in May 2019. The FEC now has only 3 commissioners, one short of a quorum.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Federal Election Commission is charged with making sure campaigns abide by the rules when it comes to raising and spending money. But the FEC now has a big problem with a much simpler kind of number: The resignation of one of its commissioners leaves the panel with only three members—one short of the minimum it needs to operate, reports the Center for Public Integrity. Vice Chairman Matthew S. Petersen said Monday that he's stepping down, and his departure means the FEC will be one vote short of a quorum. That means until a new member is confirmed, which could be weeks or months, the FEC can't even officially meet as a board, let alone conduct audits, set new rules, or issue penalties. The panel normally has six members—with no more than three from the same party—but it had been operating with two vacancies for a while.

"Voters should be extremely concerned," Ann Ravel, a Democrat and former FEC chairwoman, tells the New York Times. "If you do not have the ability to do any kind of enforcement, then there isn’t any kind of respect for the law." She worries about a "Wild West" atmosphere at a crucial time in the election cycle. President Trump nominated a Republican for the board in late 2017, but the Senate has yet to confirm him. That's because the Senate has traditionally confirmed one Republican and one Democratic nominee simultaneously, per the Times. No word yet on the next steps from the White House. Current chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, urged quick nominations and confirmations but said FEC staffers and commissioners would continue to "shine a strong spotlight on the finances of the 2020 campaign" despite the lack of a quorum. (More Federal Election Commission stories.)

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