Allred Cosponsors Bill to Reform America’s Election Watchdog
WASHINGTON – Rep. Colin Allred, D-Texas, is co-sponsoring a bipartisan effort to reform the Federal Election Commission so that it can enforce the nation’s campaign finance and election laws in a non-partisan manner.
The push to pass the Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act comes in the wake of the resignation of Matt Petersen, a Republican appointment to the commission and most recently, its vice chairman.
Petersen’s departure left the FEC with only three of the six commission seats filled heading into the 2020 election cycle. In practical terms, that means the commission can’t legally call any meetings, issue fines, conduct audits, make rules or make decisions on investigations.
“As insidious forces at home and abroad try to influence our elections, [we] need an effective watchdog to enforce campaign finance laws and prevent bad actors from doing harm to our democracy,” Allred said.
“This is an issue where Democrats and Republicans alike are finding common ground. We must act to ensure our elections are secure and our laws are enforced,” he said.
The bill was introduced in February by Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa. At the time their concern was the FEC’s enforcement process. In 2006, the representatives said, the commission deadlocked on fewer than three percent of all major enforcement cases. That number jumped to 30 percent by 2016, they said.
“The foundation of our democracy is the American people’s confidence in our electoral system,” Fitzpatrick said at the time.
“Ending the partisan gridlock at the Federal Election Commission will increase transparency and give the American people confidence that campaigns are held accountable and everyone is following the same rules,” he added.
Kilmer quipped that the situation had gotten so out of hand that the “commission … has seen more gridlock than Congress.”
“Meaningful, substantial reforms at the Commission need to happen so it can get back to weeding out campaign finance abuse and holding those who skirt the rules accountable,” he said.
Although Petersen’s departure has put the FEC board on hold, the agency continues to issue requests for comment on proposed rulemaking and the like, and the staff continues to work.
The directive that lays out how work will be performed when there is not a quorum for commission is located here, beginning in the middle of page 5.
“Plenty of FEC operations are unaffected by the lack of a quorum,” Judith Ingram, the agency’s press officer, told The Well News.
“The staff is continuing to receive, disclose and analyze campaign finance reports, as well as continuing all work that does not require a vote by the commissioners,” she said.
“In some cases, the staff will be preparing work for whenever a quorum is restored. So even if there is no imminent vote on rulemaking, for example, staff can collect comments, draft texts, and the like,” Ingram added.
The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act would:
- Change the number of commissioners from six to five, eliminating prominent result of stalemate decisions and inaction on important campaign finance matters;
- Require that commissioners would be non-partisan, an effort to increase the independence of the FEC;
- Establish an advisory Blue-Ribbon Commission to develop recommendations on nominees to fill vacancies on the Commission as they arise;
- Prohibit recent politicians from serving as commissioners to preserve the independence of the commission;
- Strengthen the role of the General Counsel so that enforcement matters move forward on such authority, unless the Commission affirmatively votes to override the General Counsel;
- Revise the qualifications for commissioners to focus on independence, public credibility, and professional experience in election law;
- Designate to reviewing courts the power to decide whether agency action is contrary to law based on the merits of the complaints before them.
In March, House Democrats passed H.R. 1, a sweeping voting rights, campaign finance and ethics overhaul, by a vote of 234-193.
The bill was aimed at getting money out of politics and increasing transparency around donors, cracking down on lobbying, and expanding voting rights for Americans by implementing provisions like automatic voter registration.
Since its passage, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to let the measure come up for a vote in his chamber.
In The News
WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday she would press ahead early next year with a campaign finance and elections overhaul, even as the measure may face the same Senate fate it did this Congress: doom. House Democrats passed their signature overhaul measure in March 2019 and dubbed it HR 1, indicating its priority. Senate... Read More
WASHINGTON — Key officials at the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency are stepping down or expecting to get fired from their roles as President Donald Trump continues to question the results of the Nov. 3 election, saying he was the victim of a fraudulent voting process. Christopher Krebs, the head of CISA... Read More
WASHINGTON - In a Georgetown University focus group webinar of voters from Generation Z, the first-time voters expressed their excitement over participating in the democratic process, while at the same time voiced concerns about various influences on the election. The focus group explored how the youngest... Read More
ANCASTER, Pa. — With one envelope slicer, three ballot scanners and around 175 people, it took election officials roughly 37 consecutive hours to process 91,000 mail-in ballots in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. "It's taking a little longer to scan than we had hoped," said Randall Wenger, chief clerk of the... Read More
Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said Tuesday that the election so far appears to be successful in terms of in-person voting despite some isolated incidents. Voters at on Missouri polling location were asked about their COVID testing status, Clarke said, and at... Read More
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump survived a scare in Texas, though Election Day ended without a verdict on whether his tumultuous presidency will continue for another term — or the huge blue wave that Joe Biden's supporters had hoped for. The former vice president held a substantial lead in national polls before the polls opened... Read More