WASHINGTON, DC - April 28 - In the midst of the presidential campaign season, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has been rendered ineffectual. Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) launched a new website, FixtheFEC.org, designed to change that. FixtheFEC.org was created to prompt Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to allow for a vote on federal election commissioners that can get the FEC back to policing federal elections business. Currently, the FEC is unable to perform its function, to administer and enforce campaign finance laws.
The Commission is made up of six members, who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The FEC must have a quorum of at least four commissioners to act. Right now, the FEC has only two commissioners; four seats are vacant. It cannot offer guidance, issue advisory opinions, prepare reform regulations or formally initiate investigations.
CREW’s site features a letter that can be emailed from FixtheFEC.org directly to Sen. McConnell’s office. It also posts all of the FEC complaints that have not been addressed this year. Currently, there are nineteen.
President Bush nominated to the Commission the highly controversial Hans von Spakovsky, formerly a Department of Justice official and has refused to withdraw Mr. von Spakovsky’s nomination. Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), have insisted that all four Commission nominees be voted on together in a single package rather than individually on the merits of each, concerned that Mr. von Spakovsky would lose. Seeking to end the impasse, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (NV) sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten, promising that if Mr. von Spakovsky's nomination were defeated, he would "quickly review" a replacement nominee. Neither President Bush nor Sen. McConnell is budging.
On April 14, 2008, Democratic nominee Robert Lenherd, whose two year recess appointment to the Commission expired in December, withdrew his name for consideration and joined a private law firm. Sen. Reid said it would take several months for the Democrats to nominate a replacement for Mr. Lenherd and again asked President Bush to withdraw Mr. Von Spakovsky’s nomination. Unsurprisingly, the president again refused. All of which just compounds the gridlock.
Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, said today, “Since Senator McConnell has dug in his heels and refused to allow for a vote, the nation’s election watchdog has been muzzled right when we need it most. Incredibly, the FEC cannot address any complaints against presidential candidates or a series of public financing questions.”
“With no one on the watch, who’s to say some unscrupulous souls won’t violate the law in order to gain advantage in an election? Once an election is over there is no unseating the winners, whether or not they played by the rules.”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions.